Friday, 3 April 2015

In Scotland I'm Free to Speak Out Against Psychiatry Without Fear or Favour [from May 2014]

I wanted to write a short blog post about the freedom I have in my home country of Scotland to speak out against psychiatry and at the same time to work with and alongside psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, other mental health professionals and people with lived experience of psychiatric labels/diagnoses.  I appreciate the room for negotiation and for differences of opinion despite the times it has felt like badmouthing and backstabbing.  But I have given as good as I’ve got, it has to be said.  I bear no grudges even if others do, although I may have some sore points.  That’s life.

The person I am at age 62 this year is because of the life I have lived in the land of my birth.  I have engaged with psychiatry for over 40 years as a mental patient in 3 different decades and as a carer in every decade, but I was able to resist and break free from the drug treatment and labels.  And to have a life apart from what was written in my psychiatric notes.  That opportunity was always there and I took it with both hands.  My family members through 3 generations have also had choices although it may have seemed to them that it was easier to stay in the system with the protection that offered.  I respected their choices even if it wasn’t the same for me.

In 1980 I began my “career” in community development, where empowerment and lifelong learning were underpinning philosophies although I didn’t know the theory and background of it until achieving a postgraduate qualification in community education in 1998 at 46 years old.  I just lived it in an ex-mining village in South Lanarkshire all through the 80′s where the mothers like myself set up playgroups and youth clubs for our children and neighbours. 

me with oldest son on isle of Gigha c1980
We got a minibus for outings to the seaside and I drove the bus so that we were self sufficient.  The local council workers helped by giving resources and training but the impetus was ours, and the forward thinking. I got involved in committees and steering groups, locally and further afield.  The doing of it gave me and others the skills and expertise to influence change and empower ourselves within our communities.

After my 2nd puerperal psychosis in 1984 and a year of chlorpromazine, with 3 young sons needing my support, I had to break free from the mental health world and get back on with my normal life.  I was able to do this because the way was open, the coast was clear, and it just required me to believe in myself and to lay hold again of my skills, resilience and community support, of family, friends and wider networks. There’s no doubt it was harder for me in 2002 because of the drug cocktails.  But yet again eventually my community supports and inbuilt resilience got me out of the slough of despond and back into the fray.  I was fortunate.  The drugs did not hold me or tie me down forever.  I couldn’t let them have the power to do so.

I’m now working in partnership with a Scottish psychiatrist in challenging the power of the drug companies, the hard sell of big pharma to psychiatry in their “educational” events and their freebies, consultancy posts and other tempting offers to doctors.

I’ve started pharma blogs on Blogger and WordPress.  There is a Sunshine Act petition being considered by Scottish Parliament.  The government has been seeking transparency from health boards in the relationships between their staff and pharmaceutical companies.  The Scottish Medicines Consortium is now holding their meetings in public.

In all these ways I see gradual improvements and psychiatry being held to account in terms of their relationships with pharma. I write with a critical voice to bring about improvements to mental health services and more choices in psychiatric settings. I also want to see an end to forced psychiatric treatment because it’s happened to me and my family through 3 generations and I for one didn’t like it being done to me or hearing of it being done to my family members.

I want to see the Scottish Mental Health Act implemented properly and monitored effectively.  Respect for Carers has to mean just that.  Protecting the rights of psychiatric patients has to become a reality.  It’s why I speak out in Scotland and can do so without fear or favour.


  1. Chrys, This is a terrific blog,and I look forward to meeting Peter Gordon. We few psychiatrists who publicly question the undue influence of big Pharma on psychiatry need to get to know each other. I wonder if Peter will attend IIMHL?

    1. Dan thanks for commenting. I agree about psychiatrists of like minds being in solidarity.


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