Saturday, 28 September 2013

blog post 'Halloween horror brings out the best in online campaigning' by Chris O'Sullivan

Here is another blog post about the mental patient and psycho ward costumes, by Chris O'Sullivan on - 'Halloween horror brings out the best in online campaigning'.


“There are two lessons for me from this for anti-stigma work going forward.

Firstly, it is far from inspiring that this kind of thing is still happening. Asda have a reputation as good employers of disabled people including those with mental health problems. I have used their staff facilities to hold mental health sessions, and they support numerous community initiatives. Yet this kind of costume was approved for sale by a team, and a manager somewhere.”

“My second point is the point of pride and excitement at the fact that people power led by those with lived experience created an upswell of action that created visible change they could all see and swept the story onto the BBC and ITV news agenda by midnight.

They did not need PR support, or encouragement from mental health charities and anti-stigma campaigns. Most of the charities were not online, though those that were were using their voice well to support the individuals with key messages and pointers.”

Thursday, 26 September 2013

mental patients and psycho wards are still with us - so much for anti-stigma campaigns

Today on Facebook I heard about the Psycho Ward and Mental Patient fancy dress costumes on sale by Tesco, Asda and Amazon that have been causing a stir.  It seems that despite the millions poured in to anti-stigma campaigns the mentally ill are still seen as psychos and mental.

Asda has removed their mental patient costume, a BBC article 'Asda 'mental patient' costume withdrawn from sale online' quote:

"Following criticism, including from one "stunned" mental health charity, the store offered "sincere apologies for the offence it has caused". It would be making a "very sizeable donation" to mental health charity Mind, Asda added.  In a statement on Wednesday evening, Asda, which is owned by US retail giant Walmart, said the sale had been a "completely unacceptable error"."

Just noticed that Tesco and Amazon have now removed the Psycho Ward costumes.  However I'm not shocked or horrified by the costumes.  I think they highlight the fact that stigma and discrimination in mental health terms is very much alive and kicking.

And I suspect that the costumes were selling well.  Because the reality for those of us experiencing mental distress or a psychosis is that we are labelled in the psychiatric notes, indelibly, with no scientific proof of any disease.  Lifelong mental illness.  Well I never believed a word of it.

So if I see any folk in psycho ward or mental patient costumes at Halloween I'll just have a laugh to myself.  Because it's far scarier to be detained in a psychiatric ward and forced to take psychiatric drugs against your will.  

To then have schizoaffective disorder written in your medical notes and "family history of ..." written in the notes of your sons if they happen to experience mental distress and have to engage with psychiatry.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

free places at Holyrood Events?

Recently I had to beg for a free place at a Holyrood Events conference on health and social care integration.  I was successful.  As an unpaid carer on £59/week I can't afford the cost of a delegate place, from £99+VAT.  And then there's travel expenses on top of that.  

However I know of other service users and unpaid carers who couldn't get a free place and were keen to take part.  And there is another conference coming up in November, Mental Health 2013, which is discussing important topics, to users and carers, like the Mental Health Act, mental health tribunals, stigma, welfare reform.

I've sent an Email about this to the keynote speakers and forwarded to the Holyrood events managers.  Had to google for names, guess the contact addresses, who knows if it will get to the appropriate people in charge.

I say to the Holyrood conference high heid yins that they should consider how to meaningfully involve and include unwaged service users and unpaid carers at their health conferences.  It makes sense to have the people with lived experience at the table.  

Otherwise it's just a chosen cohort of highly paid professionals talking to a bigger bunch of less highly paid professionals, justifying their existence.

Monday, 16 September 2013

mental health befriending - reducing isolation or increasing stigma?

There is a mental health befriending project where I live that recently had an evaluation done of its services.  According to this report you might think that this service is doing a good job of helping to reduce the isolation of people who have mental health issues.

However what the report doesn't tell you is that this project is governed by psychiatric nurses and other health professionals who make sure that any people with mental health issues who approach the project have to complete a form, declaring if they might be a risk or have been aggressive when a psychiatric inpatient.  No mention of forceful behaviour by psychiatric nurses.

I contend that this process is both stigmatising and discriminatory, and I made a complaint to the project last year about it.  My complaint was not upheld.  And the project continues, no doubt, to identify anyone who might, in their opinion, be a "risk".

In my opinion this is disgraceful and another indicator of what's wrong with the psychiatric and mental health services in Fife.  The two tier treatment of the so-called 'mentally ill' and the silo mentality of psychiatric staff who are determined to keep their SEMI (severe and enduring mental illness) label alive and kicking.

In Fife we have maintenance and rehabilitation for mental patients (prisoners?).  Alongside recovery for those deemed to have the potential.  According to the professionals who are keeping themselves in a job by keeping the mentally ill severe and enduring.   

My advice is to disregard their stigmatising labels and lifelong prognoses.  Take charge of your own mental health and recover.  Don't bother trying to access befriending projects that want you to admit the labels that have been thrust upon you.  Resist the pressure, it's the system that's risky and the workers who are forceful.

Monday, 9 September 2013

banned from today's VOX AGM and conference

Today is the AGM and annual conference of VoX, which stands for 'voices of experience', who call themselves the Scottish national mental health service-user led organisation.  Or FoG, another arm of the government, as I call it. 

In July I sent an Email to VoX putting my name down to attend but got an Email back 2 weeks later, saying:

"Following a meeting of VoX Board on Monday 29 July 2013 it was decided that the VoX Conference and Annual General Meeting falls into two categories, the Conference is by invitation only and the annual general meeting is for members only. Unfortunately you do not fit either of these two categories and are therefore not able to attend."

In other words, I was banned.  Excluded.  Cast out.  For daring to have a critical voice.  Heaven forbid.  That I should not agree with the 'majority' view, which is that coercive psychiatric treatment is OK and necessary in some cases.  

When my son experienced human rights abuses in a psychiatric locked ward in February 2012 VoX neither challenged this nor stood with me.

Shame on you.