Sunday, 6 April 2014

#seeme14: talking a good game versus doing a good job

It became even more apparent to me, when participating in the "re-branding" workshop on Friday at the #seeme14 Dunblane event, that it's a cut-throat affair in Scotland's mental health world of targets, delivery and outcomes.

At our table we had a worker from one national MH organisation and a volunteer from See Me who at times were competing with each other to justify their point of view.  Although I started off with the same viewpoint as the worker by the end of the session I was on the side of the volunteer.

And this is why:
  • the worker's organisation talks a good game (website, promotional materials, reports, news, stories) but I know they don't always do what they say on the tin because I've had close contact with them, seen the warts and all, spoken out about it and been excluded
  • the See Me volunteer talked about what a difference it had made to her life to be involved and part of the team.  She didn't "sell" the organisation but admitted it's shortfalls in terms of promoting what they do well and the need for a fresh marketing strategy
The volunteer's story convinced me that there was more to See Me than what I had been aware of. I realised that, although they hadn't been tackling the stigma of the lifelong mental illness labels (iatrogenic stigma) which is my area of activism, they had been doing valuable grassroots work with people on the ground.

On the other hand the worker's critical stance on See Me I found hypocritical, considering what I knew to be the reality of the organisation she worked for.  And I spoke out about this at the table.  How it wasn't just about talking a good game. 

Michael Matheson on Thursday when delivering the keynote address spoke of a collective responsibility regarding challenging stigma and of learning networks in communities.  He also mentioned outcomes and ongoing evaluation, with listening to the service users or customers of the service.

I added carers and survivors to the mix because I am both of these.  Psychiatric survivors are all of us who have engaged with psychiatry and have lived to tell the tale.  We might be using services or on medication/psychiatric drugs or "recovered" but we all have a voice that is an important part of the mix.

Scottish Government's new mental health strategy might reinforce the divisions between "common mental health problems" and "severe and enduring mental illness" but for those of us living it there is no difference.  Any one of us could end up having to engage with psychiatry and in my family's case it was all of us.  In solidarity.  

We helped each other in and helped each other out.  I see that as a positive.  Psychiatry sees it as a negative, a "stain" or deficiency, a genetic mutation, "family history of", and discriminates against us, accordingly.  Which impacts on society and on government strategies. 

I resist the naming, shaming and blaming of mental illness, and will not accept the labels, the diagnoses or that forced treatment is necessary.  It's psychiatry that has to shift its perspective and treat all of us as individuals not as symptoms and behaviours.  See the person not the label.

picked up this SeeMe postcard at #seeme14 event, liked it

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