The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland had declared the IPCU/Ward 4 at Stratheden Hospital, Fife, "unfit for purpose" way before my son was forcibly detained there in February 2012. An old building with different levels, dormitories, a locked seclusion room with a light switch on the outside used as a "naughty step", a front door and a back door (which I was sent to) and staff who were in the habit of rolling their own cigarettes when on duty, in front of the patients.
If the building was unfit for purpose does this mean to say that the staff were unfit to practise? Was it and is it possible for psychiatric staff working in a building that is unfit for purpose to, nevertheless, behave in a fitting way and with humanity? Can the limitations of the building be blamed or responsible for dehumanising treatment?
I say no.
There is no excuse for denying the basic human rights of locked-in psychiatric patients. We live in a democratic and developed country where even prisoners have their rights protected. The Mental Health Act for Scotland has a number of safeguards in place that are meant to protect the rights of people with a mental disorder under the Act. The Mental Welfare Commission is a safeguard.
And yet, despite knowing what our rights were, my son and I fought to be heard and to be treated with respect, by the psychiatric nurses in the Stratheden IPCU. I had to advocate for my son at meetings and was told by the RMO (registered medical officer, a consultant forensic psychiatrist) that people without capacity don't require advocacy. This RMO kept trying to speak with my son without an advocate being present.
My son was locked in the seclusion room, overnight for hours at a time, with no toilet or water to drink, the light switch flicked on and off at random. He was forcibly injected in this same room with haloperidol which caused him to lose balance whereupon he was castigated. I had to remind staff of procyclidine for side effects. I was both his carer and named person, and for neither was I given the due respect of the roles.
The Mental Health Officer aligned herself with the psychiatric professionals and even offloaded her own personal story of a family member in a psychiatric locked ward for over a year, to my son and I at a meeting in the community after he was discharged. Which caused a lot of upset for my son. A complaint I made to Fife Council Social Work got the response that it was a "learning point" for the MHO.
Fife Council Adult Protection team investigated my complaint about my son's treatment in Stratheden and tried to blame me for causing "psychological harm" when my son was having his basic human rights denied in the IPCU. No toilet, no water to drink and no pen to write with. My character was investigated and the lead investigator, a Fife Council social worker and MHO, along with my son's MHO, questioned a psychiatrist and CPN about me.
Trying to blame a mother for system failure, a building unfit for purpose and staff unfit to practise.
Then last week at a mental health focus group meeting I had to sit there while a Fife Council Adult Protection worker handed round various promotional materials - fridge magnet, spectacle cloth, notepads, pens, mirror, keyring - which had the adult protection logo on it. Many of the service users at this group will have been subject to forced treatment in psychiatric settings where adult protection investigations are on the side of the oppressors.
Rubbing our noses in it.
Such is the state of affairs in Fife where "meaningful involvement" in mental health matters is nothing of the kind. It continues to be a tick-box, tokenistic and tedious undertaking. The powers that be have no intention of letting go the reigns or of letting folk with lived experience in to the decision-making agendas. It's still a cosmetic exercise and we still have no independent advocacy in Fife. In my opinion.
It will require a paradigm shift, an about turn.