Sunday, 26 January 2014

Patriarchy, Infantilisation and the Blaming of Mothers

circa 1956
I've become very familiar with the characteristics and personality of the patriarchal system that is psychiatry.  "It's a man's world"  Where women are kept under control and men are treated like women.  Psychiatric drugs are the tools of choice and voluntary means detained if you refuse to go by the rules.  When mothers challenge the system and stand with their children, grown up or otherwise, there is a "divide and conquer" mentality, and psychiatric notes speak of difficult and demanding mothers, troublesome creatures who just won't let the men get on with the job.  Of power, control and infantilisation.

The punishment for psychosis is a stigmatising label and forced drug treatment if non-compliant or resistant.  Never mind if the altered mind state was reasonable in the circumstances, a coping mechanism for dealing with trauma or body changes.  Daddy knows best.  Close your eyes, hold your nose, open your mouth and swallow the pills.  Or else.

I'd been in the habit of choosing the "or else" but in 2002 did as I was told and swallowed the pills, and was the worse for it.  I ended up having to swallow a lot of pills, anti-psychotics and anti-depressants, that weren't "anti" anything.  In fact they made me more depressed, flat, humourless and obedient.  Good girl.  Then when I made a feeble protest at a psychiatrist appointment I was given lithium to "augment" the anti-depressant.  Daddy knows best.  Still no change, flat as a pancake, no singing voice, grey days.  Time for action but difficult to do when unmotivated and having got used to obeying orders.

circa 1970
Yet inside there was a rebel voice, a mother who would not let them get away with it.  The labelling, drugging and blaming.  Family history of.  It must be true, it's written in the notes.  Well I'll have to write my own notes, tell the real story, name and shame, as they have done with me and mine.  Let the battle commence.  But first I had to get out from under the mire of fatherly influence, brain altering chemicals and feelings of hopelessness.  That suck you down and make you conform.  I had to become my own woman again like at puberty.  Breaking free, on my own terms.

You see it's easier to control the mad people if they become like children.  The difficulty is when they resist, refuse to obey and remain in their psychoses or mad states.  That's when the schizophrenia label appears and remains in psychiatric notes to warn the world that this person is a troublemaker.  They won't lie down and take it.  How dare they! We'll sort them out.  With indelible labels and slanderous accusations wrapped up in medical jargon to fool the world outside the system.  Stigma will keep them chained.  Self doubt and shame will keep them silent.

But some of us won't lie down or be quiet.  Our voices keep rising up, speaking out, whatever the cost.  Especially if they try it on with our children.  A step too far.

In 1982, four years after my first psychiatric inpatient experience, following what the psychiatrists called a "puerperal psychosis" due to hormone imbalance, I was invited to speak at a church event about how I came to faith.  Part of my story included running from the psychiatric hospital to avoid ECT, and then the escape from psychiatry by tapering and getting off the psychiatric drugs.  

At the end of my talk a woman came up to me and said she'd had many courses of ECT and was still under psychiatry.  She seemed OK about this and that somehow I was the odd one out.  Ar 30 years old I realised that my story of resistance was not "normal".  In 1984 I had another baby, they were looking out for signs of psychosis and I ended up in the psychiatric ward only a day or two out of the maternity hospital.  Again I was forcibly injected with chlorpromazine, separated from my children, tapered the drugs within a year and got back on with my life.

In between this episode and my 2002 incarceration I had good mental health, no more babies (my husband got a vasectomy or I would have had a fourth child) and I supported other family members in and through psychiatry.  My mother, two younger sisters and my oldest son who had a breakdown in 1995 after leaving home to go to university.  My middle son experienced similar in 1999 after leaving home but I made sure to get him out of Fife and back to where he was living, in a different health board area.  I didn't want a repeat of what had happened to my oldest son, physical injuries in the psychiatric ward, complaints made by me, attempts to label him, forced ECT and a critical incident.  The same ward I entered in 2002 and where my youngest son was an inpatient in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012.  Ending in psychiatric abuse and bullying of mothers.

I moved my mother to Fife where I live, in 1993, where she continued to go for her 3 weekly depixol injections until her death in 1998, a gentle woman who led an ordered life and did the best she could for her children.  The system now had our family's psychiatric notes from mother to daughter to grandsons.  Family history of.  I believe this is why it was more difficult in 2002 for me to both resist psychiatry and to recover.  Fortunately my mother wasn't around by then, for her sake, although I miss her a lot.  

Since I got my life back in 2004 I have continued to advocate for family members while also getting deeper into mental health involvement, activism and campaigning.  It's not been easy, I didn't choose to get involved but sometimes circumstances compel you to take a stand, to speak out and to resist.  There's nothing else for it.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Fife Herald article 24 January 2014: Lomond Ward nurse faces charge of assaulting female patient

[update 1 February 2014]

Fife Herald 31 January 2014 published this update:

Yesterday's Fife Herald edition, 24 January 2014, a news article about Lomond Ward, Stratheden Hospital, nurse faces charge of assaulting female patient on 6 August 2013:

And Courier article from November 2013 about Stratheden Hospital Radernie Ward nurse: 'Fife nurse struck off for attack on frail Alzheimer’s sufferer':

Photo from Courier article
"A mental health nurse who “abused her position of trust” has been struck off after a misconduct hearing found her guilty of ... pushing 88-year-old widow Betty Farley against a wall and holding her there, and causing or allowing her to fall to the ground."

" ... I still feel NHS Fife have let my mum down because, technicality or not, I don’t think she (nurse) should ever have been allowed back into a hospital"

"She was also found guilty of a charge which stated that while employed on Stratheden’s Radernie Ward, on August 29 2011, she administered a bisacodyl suppository to another patient referred to as Patient A when it had not been prescribed for the patient. She also failed to record the error in that patient’s notes."

Friday, 24 January 2014

moral leadership

Yesterday a friend wrote to me in an Email "Moral leadership is what we most fairly seek.".  I looked up the meaning and it said "personal integrity, fairness, aiming to serve, pursuit of a higher purpose, developing the capacity of others.  Building consensus, navigating diversity and establishing unity.".

There's no doubt we need more of this in the world to make it a better place, and in the mental health arena so that human rights are a priority, along with respect, recognition, equality, accountability and doing what is right.  

I also think it's going to mean sacrificing comfort and advancement to bring about fairness and justice.  We before me.  You before I.  It will be costly and painful.  Financially and socially.

It's not something to be chosen, rather I expect it chooses you.  As in a cause or a fight or resistance or a stand.  Circumstances propelling a person to consider or even not to consider but just to act.

Keris Jän Myrick
Keris Jän Myrick - president of NAMI national and CEO of Project Return Peer Support Network LA county, USA - on Mad in America 'Dare to Dream: Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr' on 20 January, Martin Luther King Day.

"Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said that “of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”

For those of us diagnosed with mental illnesses and our families and loved ones, we know all too well the effects of these inequalities from personal and first hand experiences. For those of us like me, we also know of the extreme health and mental health disparities that exist within our communities of color. Within communities of color, the first introduction to mental health care is usually involuntary commitment to hospitals, and/or incarceration in jails, both resulting in trauma, humiliation and reducing the likelihood of voluntarily seeking services when needed."

Sunday, 19 January 2014

I've offered to speak at Mental Health & Incapacity Conference from patient/carer perspective

[update, the answer's No, got a response today 22 January]

I sent an Email this morning to the organisers (Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, Law Society of Scotland, Equality and Human RightsCommission) of the Mental Health & Incapacity Conference on 21/22 March 2014 at The Fairmont Hotel, St Andrews, offering to do a presentation or workshop at their event from the patient/carer perspective.   Here is a copy:

Dear Conference Organisers

I am willing to give a talk or facilitate a workshop at the Mental Health & Incapacity Conference on 21/22 March 2014, from the patient and carer perspective.

I think it would be useful for your conference delegates to hear personal experience of what it's like to be declared "without capacity" and then to be incapacitated by psychiatric treatment and psychiatric drugs, against your will.  I was a psychiatric inpatient on 3 occasions, going in voluntarily to a psychiatric ward in an altered mind state then being forcibly treated.  I also have 3 sons who have experienced psychoses and been forcibly treated with psychiatric drugs.  

In 2012 a consultant psychiatrist, the RMO, told me that patients without capacity don't require advocacy, referring to my son who was his patient and detained under the mental health act in an IPCU.  I told the RMO that my son had capacity and even if he hadn't he would still be entitled to independent advocacy under the Act.  I realised then that although my son and I knew the mental health act and his rights, the psychiatric professionals were not as well informed, and/or were not implementing the Act appropriately.

I believe that there is a major issue in psychiatric treatment to do with the human rights of detained patients in relation to incapacity.  It has been my family's experience that entering a psychiatric ward voluntarily leads to us being declared without capacity and treatment being forced upon us.  Because psychosis equals incapacity in the eyes of psychiatry.  But why should refusing psychiatric drugs be equated with anosognosia or lack of insight?

Anti-psychotics have serious side effects, can cause depression, are brain altering chemicals that cause physical disability in the long term eg tardive dyskenia, diabetes, other health conditions.  Anti-depressants cause suicidal impulse in some people.  I took an overdose on venlafaxine without thinking, very scary. got taken by ambulance to Ninewells Hospital, after this was put on more venlafaxine.  Maximum doses of venlafaxine causes bone loss, research articles tell us.  A year after getting off the drug in 2005 I broke my fibula in 3 places just walking down a stair, now have a 6in metal plate in my leg.

I contend that it is too easy for psychiatrists to declare a patient to be without capacity and to force treatment upon them.  Being forced to take psychiatric drugs incapacitates the patient, taking away decision-making abilities and making a person vulnerable in a mixed gender setting where there are a mix of patients, some with substance misuse issues and criminal records.  Women should not be incapacitated by psychiatric drugs and be at risk in psychiatric settings.  This is unacceptable.  It is a human rights issue in my opinion.

Mental health law should be seen to be implemented.  The mental health act safeguards should be safe.  In my family's experience, 2012 in Stratheden Hospital, Cupar and 2013 in Carseview Centre, Dundee, many of the safeguards were ineffective or even ignored.  Professional staff either did not know them or did not implement them.  Therefore the rights of my sons were not protected.  Which resulted in a denial of basic human rights in the Stratheden situation where my son was put at risk.  As a carer in this situation I was not respected, a principle under the Act.  

I hope that you will consider my request to speak at your event.  

Regards, Chrys

why do Scottish psychiatric staff disregard mental health law and get away with it?

Scotland's Mental Health Act is written about in glowing terms as if it transcends other mental health law documents.  But what use a piece of paper that isn't implemented in psychiatric settings, resulting in human rights abuse and people with "mental disorders" put at risk?

Our Act was written in 2003 and came into play in 2005, as far as I am aware.  It's now 2014 and in Fife where I live there is no evidence, from the patient and carer perspective, that psychiatric professionals are implementing the Act or protecting the rights of patients under the Act.  Safeguards that aren't safe.  The game's a bogey.

In February 2012 my son was studying the MH Act for a university honours dissertation and knew what his rights were.  However as a psychiatric patient detained under the Act in Stratheden Hospital's IPCU there was little evidence that staff in the ward gave any credence to patient or carer rights.  

They kept on doing what they have always done which is to lock patients in a seclusion room overnight with no toilet or water to drink, in the dark, light switch outside, even if injured and drugged up with benzos.  After all, that's what they are used to doing and the regular inpatients expect it.  Human rights abuse. 

Ironically the senior charge nurse of the Stratheden IPCU told me when my son was first admitted that her ward was all about "relationship".  I believed her, she sounded genuine.  And then I found out from my son what had been happening and at the same time was bullied by a group of 5 nurses in the IPCU dining room that doubled as a visiting room.

From that point on I didn't believe a word they said and kept an eye out for my son.  Advocating for him at clinical meetings and doing what I could to ensure his safety.  It wasn't easy.  They labelled me a "difficult and demanding mother" in psychiatric notes and did their best to force me out of the situation so that I'd leave them to "care" for my son.  Not on your nelly.

For me to believe that real change has happened at Stratheden Hospital and that mental health act safeguards are being implemented, I will need proof from the patient and carer perspective.  Evidence from the customers of the service.  Straight from the horse's mouth.

Friday, 17 January 2014

an open letter to VOX - please stop doing what you're told! get amplification!

Dear VOX (voices of experience) Scotland

If you are allocated a limited number of free places for a conference (as in the Mental Health and Incapacity Mental Health & Incapacity Conference on 21/22 March 2014 at The Fairmont Hotel, St Andrews, Scotland) and you have many more members wanting to attend then do me a favour and ask for more places.  Don't just accept what you're given.  

Think of your members.  Stand up for them.  Stop fitting in with the powers that be.  We get enough of that in psychiatric settings.

Why do you keep asking your members to compete with each other for places at events and other meetings?  Where is your backbone?  Demand more places or at the very least speak out and ask for more.  You might be paid by government but that doesn't mean you have to be their lackeys.  Get some gumption.  Please!

I'm a 61yr old granny and I won't take it lying down.  Follow my example and start to make a difference.  It shouldn't just be jobs for the boys (or girls).  We're all in it together or should be.  This "divide and conquer" mentality is very irritating.  You really do need to get a grip and challenge inequality and dehumanising treatment.  It's becoming very embarassing that our national mental health user group is seen sucking in with the high heid yins.

I hope that you will take this letter in the spirit in which it's written.  For the sake of justice and fairness.  So that we all have a chance of being included and of being heard.  You've banned me from meetings.  So be it.  But you really should be listening to critical voices and making space for everyone.  

Take a think to yersel.


without capacity? in whose opinion

[blog post written 6 December 2012 after a difficult year of resistance]

I have a major concern about the phrase 'without capacity', in terms of reasons/excuses given for enforcing treatment on the non-compliant or nonconformist patient.  I say this, having been a nonconformist person for over 60 years.  As someone who knows my own mind and likes to be listened to.  Which I think can or should be said about every human being.  Whether labelled or not by a psychiatrist.

I really didn't like being forced to take psychiatric drugs then forced to stay on them.  The drugs took away my decision making abilities, made me flat in mood and lacking in motivation.  Life wasn't enjoyable and seemed to be different shades of grey.  I prefer the vivid colours or autumn shades, depending on the time of year or day.  But grey just doesn't do it for me.

Recently I was supporting someone who was a patient in a locked ward.  They were resisting the regime, refusing the psychiatric drugs and labels.  And I was standing with them, in their resistance.  At a meeting with the consultant (forensic) psychiatrist he tried to tell me that the patient I was supporting was without capacity.  Also that people without capacity didn't require independent advocacy.  Wrong on both counts. The person had me to advocate, has now recovered, got off all the psychiatric drugs within 6 months, and got back on with their lives.

Therefore I am very concerned to hear that half of the women over 60 in Scotland getting ECT or shock treatment, are deemed to be 'without capacity' and get it involuntarily or against their will.  What is this all about?  The SEAN (Scottish ECT Accreditation Network) 2012 report states, in Summary and Key Findings page viii, that 71% women, 29% men get ECT, and of these 34% get it involuntarily or because they are 'without capacity'.  What's going on?

I want to know why women are being targeted for electroconvulsive therapy or electroshock as it's described elsewhere.  Shocks to the brain, anaesthetic and repeated treatments of it, sometimes over many years, I suspect.  I think it's a scandal, that women, and many of them old women, are having this done to them.  My mother had many courses of ECT in the 50's and 60's, against her will, in Murray Royal Hospital.  And so she took a depixol injection in the hip for the rest of her life, under compulsion.  It's just not good enough, for mothers and grandmothers.

[borrowed from Mick Brahman's blog]

Mental Health & Incapacity Conference 2014 St Andrews Fife - I'll be there, inside or outside

[update 20 January 2014, just heard that free places for carers from Carers Trust contact person Karen Martin - not Carers Scotland]

There are free places available for unpaid carers and service users to attend the Mental Health & Incapacity Conference on 21/22 March 2014 at The Fairmont Hotel, St Andrews, Scotland.  I've been trying to access one of these free places since 19 December, from the Law Society of Scotland, without success.

Now I hear that to obtain a free place I have to ask Carers Scotland or VOX.  Well, I'm banned from attending events by VOX so I don't expect to be treated fairly therefore my main chance is through the national carer organisation.  However I suspect that many people will want a free place as the cost is prohibitive for those of us with little money or income.

Therefore I plan to be there, outside or inside the venue, or outside the gates on the road if need be, because the topic of mental health and incapacity is very important to me.  All my family have been forcibly treated by psychiatry and to do so were deemed to be "without capacity".  The only way they can override our wishes and disempower us.

Human rights abuse in psychiatric settings must stop.  The Mental Health Act for Scotland safeguards aren't safe.  At the whim of psychiatrists mental patients can be declared "without capacity", denied independent advocacy, locked in rooms with no toilet, left there for hours on end and the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland is impotent.

In fact I don't want a place at this event if it means others won't get a place so I will choose to stand outside, for as long as I'm able.  For why should unpaid carers on £59/wk have to cap in hand for a free place then wait to be "chosen"?  Adding insult to injury.  Grr ...

Thursday, 16 January 2014

new UK doctors' register - 'Who pays this doctor? taking marketing out of medicine'

"DOCTORS should register gifts and payments they receive from drugs companies similar to the way politicians log their expenses, according to a group of health professionals.

From Helen Puttick in The Herald article 'Doctors are urged to register gifts from drugs companies' about the newly launched UK doctors' voluntary register website ''Who pays this doctor? taking marketing out of medicine'.

"Fifteen doctors, researchers and campaigners have claimed in a letter to the British Medical Journal that it would allow patients to check if their doctor is benefiting from the pharmaceutical industry as it may affect the treatments they prescribe."

"Campaigner and Glasgow GP Dr Margaret McCartney said: "We know that in medicine there are a few doctors who receive an awful lot of money from pharmaceutical companies and sometimes PR companies, but that is not obvious to the people they are giving advice to, whether that is their patients or the media. We think the General Medical Council should make it much easier to declare interests."

"The letter's signatories include Peter Gordon consultant psychiatrist for NHS Forth Valley, Sian Gordon a GP and GP appraiser in Falkirk and Professor Allyson Pollock, a researcher who was based at Edinburgh University before she moved to Queen Mary University of London."

Monday, 13 January 2014

Biomarkers for Mental Illness, Transgenic Mice and the Otherness of Psychosis

"Webster’s New World Medical Dictionary provides a simple definition of a biomarker as “a biologic feature that can be used to measure the presence or progress of disease or the effects of treatment.”" Patricia Boksa, PhD, 'A way forward for research on biomarkers for psychiatric disorders'

I'm not a scientist so what do I know?  Yet I'm not convinced of the biomedical model of mental illness and therefore the search for biomarkers.  I didn't believe it when labelled with a lifelong mental disorder and thought that psychiatry had got it wrong.  And proved it by getting off the psych drugs and back on with my life.  I did the same after 2 episodes of puerperal psychosis 20 years before that, not so easy nowadays.  

I didn't believe it in the 1960's when they labelled my mother with schizophrenia and gave her lifelong three-weekly injections of depixol until her death in 1998, aged 68.  I didn't believe it in the 1970's and 1980's when my two younger sisters had mind altering states, were hospitalised and had to take psychiatric drugs, sometimes at the same time as me but in different psychiatric hospitals.  I didn't believe it in the 1990's and 2000's when my 3 sons were labelled with mental disorders, experiencing life transitional mind altering states entering adulthood.  Even though they write it in our psychiatric notes I don't believe a word of it.  I resisted their predictions, in defiance when I could and got better.

Call it recovery if you like although recovery has somehow lost its individuality and become a corporate strategy in the hands of government, a tool to reduce welfare benefits.  I don't want to be part of a recovery movement that's top-down while at the bottom of the pile some of us are still being consigned to the SEMI detached dwelling of severe and enduring mental illness.  Declared non-compliant, treatment resistant, lacking insight, mentally disordered, genetically unsound, brain-diseased.  Scotland's new mental health strategy keeps up the great divide with its references to "common mental health problems" and "severe and enduring mental illness".  Them and us.  The wheat and the chaff.  Or so it seems to someone who has the label and whose family have been targeted because of a mother's label.  Generational discrimination.

At the end of last year I attended two conferences in Scotland that focused on the science of the brain in schizophrenia/SZ and biomarkers: the launch of the Glasgow Psychosis Research Network 'Perspectives on Psychosis Research' and the Scottish Mental Health Research Network Annual Scientific Meeting 2013, 'Mind and Body in the 21st Century'.  Both of them difficult events for me to sit through, not being a scientist, and more specifically being a person with lived experience of "mental illness".  Neither were a celebration of the differences in human behaviour or the recognition of life's difficulties and traumas that impact on a person, outwith their control.  It seemed to be mice and people side by side on presentation slides as if one and the same.  Dehumanising portrayals of mental distress without recourse to spiritual, existential or phenomenological considerations.

I had opportunities to ask questions and have a say at both events, in
solidarity with another expert by experience, as we took turns to speak at the mic, his focus from scientific background, mine more narrative and personal.  At the morning tea-break in Glasgow, I spoke to a professor of  neuroscience at Strathclyde University who had shown "translational" transgenic mice (which contain additional foreign DNA in every cell allowing them to be used to study gene function or regulation and to model human diseases) slides.  I asked her about the spiritual dimension, where did it come in and how did this relate to mice?  Thinking about how in psychosis there can be a sensitivity to the world, seen and unseen: God and the devil, "why am I here?", "I have been chosen", "I am special", "they're watching me" and feelings about "otherness".  The professor looked at me blankly as if this had nothing to do with SZ and brain chemicals.  Correct.

There was talk of Mitsubishi pharma funding and 20 new drug targets, serominic compounds, Wyeth and Pfizer (notice they are now merged).  DISC1 was also mentioned,  a Scottish invention from 1970 and a family who were found to have a gene mutation and psychiatric "illnesses":

"The Disrupted in Schizophrenia (DISC) locus on human chromosome 1q42 has been strongly implicated by genetic studies as a susceptibility locus for major mental illnesses."

"The function of DISC1 is as yet unknown"

"To characterize the DISC locus in mouse, we constructed a mouse BAC clone contig across the region."

"Mouse RNA samples were isolated from adult and fetal brain and heart tissue."

[quotes from 'Evolutionary constraints on the Disrupted in Schizophrenia locus']

At the lunch break in the Bute Hall, Glasgow University, I mingled with the psychiatrists, scientists and students, interesting conversations about remission versus recovery, connecting with a young student who spoke of a relative with a schizophrenia diagnosis and the challenges of the label.  We had much in common.
DTI Tractography

A welcome diversion in the afternoon was the session on psychological therapies from professors Max Birchwood and Andrew Gumley, all too short, sandwiched in between the mice, the brains and the mathematical DTI tractography.  On leaving the hall after 5pm I was approached by a psychiatrist who asked my opinion of the day and agreed with me that it wasn't a setting for people who experience psychosis.  She was thinking of the young folk in her care while I was thinking of what I'd have felt like if believing the lifelong prognosis of mental illness and still under psychiatric treatment.  It didn't inspire hope.

The Edinburgh event was hosted at the Royal College of Physicians and although I saw many people I knew it seemed they were avoiding contact, one psychiatrist waving from a distance.  But I managed to pin down another psychiatrist at registration (he'd been resisting my requests to meet) and we discussed Neurosurgery for Mental Disorder (NMD) and agreed on some points while agreeing to differ on others.  It was useful, maybe for both of us, to find out more about the person, for relationship is the key to understanding, in my opinion.

The first speaker at the Edinburgh event was Prof Angela Vincent, Professor of Neuroimmunology, University of Oxford, and her presentation showed short videos of patients experiencing various conditions, in states of undress, with uncontrollable movements.  I found it quite upsetting and undignified to see people exposed in their vulnerability.  It reminded me of the inhumane treatment of psychiatric patients who are forcibly treated when in mental distress eg the reaction to an acuphase clopixol injection after 24 hours.  I didn't take any notes after this.  It seemed pointless.

I got up to ask the first question and speak about my family's experience of psychoses, psychiatric labels and breaking free.  At the next tea-break I was approached by a young psychologist.  Rather than psychological therapies she was working with Prof David St Clair at Aberdeen University and had a poster on display 'Can eye movements be used as diagnostic markers for adult major depressive disorder?'.  There was an assumption that eye movement dysfunction can mark out schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.  (Simple viewing tests can detect eye movement abnormalities that distinguish schizophrenia cases from controls with exceptional accuracy).  I've since heard a psychiatrist colleague describe this as neo-phrenology and that it was first coined in Victorian times.

["As someone who worked for many years, as a clinician and scientist, with people who had had strokes or suffered from epilepsy, I was acutely aware of the extent to which living an ordinary life was dependent on having a brain in some kind of working order. It did not follow from this that everyday living is being a brain in some kind of working order. The brain is a necessary condition for ordinary consciousness, but not a sufficient condition." Raymond Tallis, 'Think brain scans can reveal our innermost thoughts? Think again', The Observer, 2 June 2013.]

Getting back to Edinburgh's mind and body (or brain) conference it seemed the young doctorate student thought that I would be glad of a test that wasn't just symptom-based.  She hadn't grasped the point of my testimony which was that psychiatric labels diagnoses aren't helpful at all.  Trying to mark out mental illness is like chasing the wind.  A pointless exercise and yet more stigma and discrimination.  People are not treatment resistant, it's the drugs that don't work.  ECT is like a knock on the head, new pain for old, and NMD or brain surgery is only acceptable because of the biomedical model of mental illness.  A get-out clause for psychiatric system failure.

"If researchers could develop a blood test for schizophrenia in the next few years, what are the ethical implications for instituting routine testing for "at-risk" individuals when there is currently a lack of preventative therapeutic strategies?" from Biomarkers in psychiatry: drawbacks and potential for misuse

There may well be people who experience mental distress because of physical health conditions but at present we've no way of knowing who or what.  Psychiatric treatment is very unspecialised and where I live they fling everyone together who's experiencing a breakdown into an acute psychiatric ward.  People with depression, psychoses, substance misuse issues, even learning disabled distressed people.  And if you have a psychiatric label in your notes or in your family notes then it's an even quicker process, detained under the mental health act and forcibly treated.  Therefore the eye movement research, the searching for biomarkers and the experiments on mice are pointless until people who experience trauma in life are listened to, believed and treated with respect.


Benson PJ, Beedie SA, Shephard E, Giegling I, Rujescu D, St Clair D; Simple viewing tests can detect eye movement abnormalities that distinguish schizophrenia cases from controls with exceptional accuracy; Biol Psychiatry, 2012 Nov 1

Patricia Boksa, A way forward for research on biomarkers for psychiatric disorders, J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2013 March

Shaheen E Lakhan, Karen Vieira, Elissa Hamlat; Biomarkers in psychiatry: drawbacks and potential for misuse, International Archives of Medicine 2010, 3:1

Martin S Taylor, Rebecca S Devon, J.Kirsty Millar, David J Porteous;  Evolutionary constraints onthe Disrupted in Schizophrenia locus, Genomics, Science Direct, Jan 2003

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Prof Pat Bracken Lecture Glasgow 29 January 2014

MSc Global Mental Health (@MScGlobMentHeal), University of Glasgow, is presenting a free lecture by Prof Pat Bracken 'Postpsychiatry: Reaching beyond the technical paradigm of mental health care', in the Senate Room, Main Building, University of Glasgow, G12 8QQ, on Wednesday 29 January 2014, from 9.30am to 11.30am.

See Flyer. Please Register for this event online

"Pat Bracken is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director of Mental Health Services in West Cork, Ireland. He is also Professor of Philosophy, Diversity and Mental Health at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK. He trained in psychiatry and philosophy in Cork and in Birmingham. His interests include collaborating with user/survivors, developing critical thinking in psychiatry and working with asylum seekers and refugees." 

This talk will focus on how the current technical paradigm in mental health services underscores attempts to transfer interventions from Europe and North America to countries in the "developing world" and will critique this paradigm on philosophical, empirical and sociological grounds. 

Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. For any further questions, please contact Dr Ross White (

The Lecture will be recorded.

Mind Hacks blog post on lobotomy - the power of psychiatry, its influence on stories

Mind Hacks blog post yesterday 'The pull for lobotomy' has a link to an article by Mical Raz on 'Looking Back: Interpreting lobotomy – the patients’ stories' when American psychiatrist and lobotomy pioneer Walter Freeman travelled the country performing lobotomies, in response to the suffering of patients.

image from Mind Hacks blog
I agree with Vaughn Bell, writer of the Mind Hacks piece, that it's fascinating to hear the patient and carer feedback, about how even the ice-pick lobotomies performed by "pioneer" Walter Freeman were welcomed.  How the release from mental suffering was paramount despite death occurring on occasion.
To me it shows both how powerful a story is and how powerful the doctor role can be perceived and can become.  The many stories and feedback that Dr Freeman received seemed to both spur him on and justify what he was doing. 

My comment published on this blog post today:

"Very interesting piece on the culture of the time and how people seemed glad of an escape from suffering whether it involved loss of individuality and even life. Thanks.

Near where l live, in Fife, Scotland, there is still brain surgery for mental illness, NMD or neurosurgery for mental disorder, going on, in Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, at the Advanced Interventions Service:

They now call it an anterior cingulotomy and of course it is far more sophisticated with much better outcomes. However it bothers me that people still have to resort to brain surgery for mental ill health and lack of peace of mind.

I’ve looked through their statistics and DAIS get about 10 times more referrals than what they actually perform operations on, and this includes from England and Ireland, with around 3-5 getting the operation yearly. They also offer talking intensive therapies and the main mental health conditions appear to be depression and OCD that hasn’t responded to ECT and psychiatric drugs. 

I think the main reason we still have NMD available is because of the biomedical model of mental illness. The premise that mental ill health is linked to brain stuff rather than mind and body stuff. I’m an unbeliever in “mental illness” although I do believe that people experience mental distress due to trauma and life’s difficulties. 

I’ve had 3 episodes of psychoses over my 61 years which were treated with hospitalisation and forced drug treatment. The drugs didn’t work with me and caused depression but I eventually managed to taper and get off them by myself. After my last menopausal psychosis in 2002 I was put on a cocktail of psych drugs and given a schizoaffective disorder label. I didn’t believe in the lifelong mental illness prognosis and after 2yrs got off the risperidone, venlafaxine (which caused me suicidal impulse and bone loss) and lithium.

I made a complete recovery and remain in good mental health, now finding myself a writer, survivor activist and human rights campaigner in mental health matters."

Herald articles today about whistle-blowing psychiatrist and NHS phone helpline going nowhere

In today's Herald there are two articles about psychiatrist Dr Jane Hamilton who claims she has been victimised after raising concerns over the safety of the specialist psychiatric Mother And Baby Unit at St John's Hospital, Livingston:

Doctor risks sack by going public over whistle-blowing
Couple's shock after Herald revealed doctor's concerns

In the second piece it says:

"The Scottish Government also introduced a confidential alert line for NHS whistle-blowers, last April. Dr Hamilton phoned it, but it simply referred her back to the health board. So there is still concern. 

Rab Wilson, the former psychiatric nurse who exposed errors surrounding the deaths of 20 patients in NHS Ayrshire and Arran, is not convinced by the confidential line.

He said: "From what I have heard, anyone who phones up usually finds they are referred back to their employer. It's a bit like Mrs Hen phoning up to complain her chicks are being eaten by foxes raiding the coop, and she gets referred on to Mr Fox." 

He has now lodged a petition at the Scottish Parliament that seeks to further protect NHS whistle-blowers and ensure gagging orders are truly ended."

I'm not surprised that the helpline goes nowhere as it's just like NHS Fife complaints processes which in my experience are pointless and useless at dealing with human rights abuses in psychiatric settings and the bullying and intimidation of carers and mothers.  And a Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland which is a watchdog with no teeth and responds to carers in distress by telling them to Talk to the Hand 

Huh.  So much for human rights in Scotland.  It doesn't seem to apply in psychiatric circumstances or for people who have been labelled with a mental disorder.  And even the phonelines for NHS psychiatrists who want to highlight issues are like chocolate teapots or pointless endeavours.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

guest blog Continuance Volume 3: Reproducing Dundee's City Square in the UDK by DEM

Initial Attempt at Reproducing Dundee's City Square in the UDK


Objective: to reproduce Dundee's City Square within the level editor of the Unreal Development Kit.

This objective will be broken down into several sub-objectives, namely:

  1. determining the relative proportions and then real world size of the City Square area;
  2. reconciling real world units with Unreal Units;
  3. using the foregoing data to produce a rough sketch of the area.

Monday, 6 January 2014

stampede on the horizon! one LIVED EXPERIENCE post advertised on VOX

VOX (who call themselves a National Mental Health Service User Led organisation) advert that went out before Christmas:

3 Mental Health Services Expert Reviewers (psychiatrist, nursing, mental health improvement, social work, allied health professionals or voluntary sector (16 days @ £300 per day)
1 Lived Experience Review Panel Member (Service User - 16 days @ £300 per day)
Across 10 weeks April 2014 until June 2014
Secondment welcome
Edinburgh or Glasgow 

Don't all rush to reply if you have "Lived Experience" or you may be trampled in the stampede to fill this tokenistic position.  I'm banned from VOX and off their mailing list but get forwarded their stuff from allies who keep me informed (thanks, you know who you are).

My response in an Email on 21 December 2013 to high heid yins in government, SAMH and MHF, also VOX chief exec/HIS employee and Advisers, as yet to get a reply:

"That sounds about right. 

Three to one, Mental Health Services Expert Reviewers to Lived Experience Review Panel Member.  Why not the other way about?  As in, 3 folk with lived experience, of psychiatric treatment and mental health service land, to one person paid for it?  Or even equal numbers.  Or just 4 posts for people, paid worker or not, who have experienced "mental illness" rather than "common mental health problems".  That would challenge stigma and discrimination.

Another tokenistic, tick-box exercise in Scotland.  Where those of us who have been through it, got the tee-shirt, then resisted the label, got free of the system and recovered despite the odds, are humoured and patted on the back, patronised.  Given 16 days of work at the same rates as the person seconded.  And then we have to go back to our usual existence with a psychiatric label indelibly written in our notes.  Like tattoos on our wrists or foreheads.

What will it take for Scotland to demonstrate and practise the meaningful involvement of mental health service users and psychiatric survivors?

Wonder if I should apply? Let me check.  Does it say you have to be non-conformist, independently minded, free spirited, like a challenge, radical, prepared to take a stand against hierarchical shenanigans?  

Och well.  Never mind.  Something else will turn up ...