Friday, 31 October 2014

Email from Geoff Huggins on 24 June 2014 that caused me pain, wounding me with its underlying blaming and shaming

I received an Email from Geoff Huggins on 24 June 2014 at 17.07 which caused me pain with its underlying blaming and shaming of the person I am and the work that I do.  It was a personal attack on my character, behaviour and intentions.  Copied in to others.

I contend that it was slanderous and defamatory.  However I am an unpaid carer, on £61/week Carers Allowance, live in a council house, separated from my husband, supporting my son 24/7 after his dehumanising treatment in Stratheden Hospital, Fife, in February 2012.  I can't afford to take my case against Geoff Huggins to a solicitor.  I'm not on benefits and wouldn't be entitled to legal aid.  

You might describe me as "poor" in comparison to Scottish Government civil servants.

This Email wounded me to the extent that I had to cancel my presentation on the Mental Health Act Safeguards at the INTAR Liverpool Conference the next day, 25 June, and then on 27 June my son had to call out the paramedics because I was feeling very unwell, linked to the high blood pressure condition I have, as a result of taking lithium.

I was targeted with this Email because I had complained about being excluded from the Scottish Patient Safety Programme exchange with the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership.  And was then left out of celebrations at Edinburgh Castle with leading Scottish politicians.  It felt very unfair and unjust.

I responded to the Email later that night of 24 June, justifying my reputation and my life's work, here are the opening paragraphs:

"Geoff I have considered your accusations in this Email and I don't accept them as being an accurate representation of my character and behaviour.

In fact I consider your tone and words used to be both hierarchical and denigrating, unbefitting to someone in your position with Scottish Government.  It's not the first time you've spoken to me like this.  It reads as bullying and undermining, and in the social networking world they would call it trolling."

On 28 June 2014 I raised a complaint about Geoff Huggins' Email, with Paul Gray, Director General Health & Social Care and Chief Executive NHS Scotland.  

My complaint was investigated by Yvonne Strachan, Head of Equality, Human Rights and Third Sector at Scottish Government, and middle man throughout this process was Ben Plouviez, Head of Information Management at Scottish Government.

I received a letter from Paul Gray via Email dated 2 October 2014, saying that my complaint was not upheld and that Geoff Huggins' Email was "direct and robust". 

In the complaint investigation report written by Yvonne Strachan and dated 3 September 2014 one of the recommendations was that:

"Ms Muirhead demonstrates acceptable behaviour in the manner in which she engages and participates in such meetings and events."

Here is the copy of the Email sent to me from Geoff Huggins on 24 June 2014 and copied in to various Scottish senior mental health workers (bolding is mine):
24 June 2014       17:07 



Dear Chrys

I have been reading your recent correspondence with a number of my colleagues in this and other organisations.

In your correspondence with Scottish Government, NHS and voluntary sector staff you indicate a belief that it is part of our terms and conditions that we are obligated to accept to be spoken to in an abusive manner. It is not. If people disagree with you or question your behaviour you describe them as bullying and cite your personal experience of illness and your status as a carer as in some way justifying your behaviour. It is not a justification. If people do not accede to your demands for priority access you say they are not treating you with respect. People have consistently treated you with respect.

We and others have regularly involved you in meetings and events related to mental health in Scotland, making every effort to accommodate you as a full participant. Where you have attended or participated your contribution focuses on your experience and that of your family. That is an entirely reasonable contribution to make, but you make it in a way that excludes or devalues the experience of others and which prevents other voices from being heard. Your tone is consistently belligerent and denigrating of others, including others with lived experience of the mental health system, whether as a patient or carer. 

You trivialise other’s experience with the consequence that people tell us they do not want to speak up when you are present at events for fear of what you will say. That is neither desirable or acceptable. Where we involve others or work through representative organisations you describe them as collaborators and demean their actions. That is not acceptable and we will no longer tacitly tolerate it.

I have read the correspondence about the decision not to allocate you a place at the IIMHL match on patient safety. You had previously selected a different match which had a focus on lived experience and there was no suggestion that you would not have been welcome to attend that match. Ruth and others have set out the reasons for refusing your application to join the session previously and I will not add to their explanation other than to say that I agree with their reasons given previous experience as set out above. As you were not attending the session on patient safety or one of the other matches you were not invited to the reception at the Castle. Had you attended the match on human rights which was also hosted in Edinburgh you would, of course, have been invited to the Castle with the members of Plus Perth.

We will continue to listen to and where appropriate investigate concerns that you raise with us. However, we will no longer give you special treatment or consideration to the detriment of other service users or carers. I would ask you to consider your behaviour and the impact it has on the health and wellbeing of others.

I am copying this correspondence to regular recipients of your correspondence including the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Alex Neill MSP, the Chief Executive of the NHS and Director General for Health and Social Care Paul Gray, Colin McKay at the MWC, Billy Watson at SAMH, Nigel Henderson and Simon Bradstreet at the Scottish Recovery Network, Joyce Mouriki at VOX, John Wilson at NHS Fife, Denise Coia and Ruth Glassborow at HIS and Fran Silvestri at IIMHL. I anticipate that you will want to share this correspondence on your blog and request that if you do so that you reproduce it in full.

Geoff Huggins

Geoff Huggins | Acting Director of Health and Social Care Integration | The Scottish Government | 1E.12 | St Andrew's House | Regent Road | Edinburgh | EH1 3DG |Tel: 0131 244 3210 | Mob. 07515 559192

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Chief Wrangler team Ginsberg and resisting the force

Just noticed the different designs on the Ginsberg website and the "team" information.  

I attended the first Hack Weekend for the project in April 2013 and tried twice to be "involved" but the Chief Wrangler wouldn't have me on board and that's OK.  No hard feelings.  I've got plenty of other work to do as a writer, activist, campaigner and critical voice in Scotland's mental health world. 

However I'm critical of the Scottish Government's Mental Health Strategy written by the Chief Wrangler and about his engagement with the national mental health service user group VOX which I think has been less than helpful.  Making them more like FOG, a focus group of government.

I'm also critical of the free reign given to the Chief Wrangler to undermine and bully a mother and unpaid carer, copying in others and causing stress.  It felt personal.  My complaint wasn't upheld but I will be taking it further. 

I contend that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that the Chief Wrangler has helped to "increase the mental wellbeing of the Scottish population" although he may have been an avid "early adopter of self technologies".

It seems to me that there is little merit in meeting force with force or "wrangling".  It can become like bullying and intimidation, entrenchment of a position and defensive attacks.  

Rather it makes sense to me to resist the force and to stand firm.  To take back the power by peaceful means.  To negotiate and to reason until sense prevails.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

my testimony & second submission on The Scottish Parliament website in respect of Mental Health (Scotland) Bill

My second submission as evidence to the Health and Sport Committee in respect of the Mental Health (Scotland) Bill on the Scottish Parliament website. 

Sometimes, when people are unwell, they may have to be detained in hospital or have treatment against their will. But they still have rights. We all have human rights, and mental health law contains special rights and safeguards to protect people.” Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland 

Unfortunately it was my family’s experience in February 2012 that the safeguards contained in the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 weren’t safe. 

A family member who became an inpatient of an hospital’s IPCU on 1 February 2012 knew the Act well as they were studying it for a BSc honours sociology 4th year dissertation at University, and therefore knew their rights (they graduated this summer 2014). As primary carer and named person I also knew what their rights and mine were. However our knowledge and experience carried little weight when they were detained under the Act in a locked seclusion room with no toilet or water to drink, for hours at a time, medicated with Midazolam.

The Mental Health Act is based on a set of 10 Principles and at number 7:

Respect for carers - Those who provide care to service users on an informal basis should receive respect for their role and experience, receive appropriate information and advice, and have their views and needs taken into account”

I contend that I was not accorded the respect as prescribed in the Act and was not given timely or appropriate information. For example on 1 February 2012 they received a serious hand injury and I wasn’t told about it until 3 February on a phone call. I then had to ask a doctor in the IPCU to examine it on Saturday 4 February, after attempts by nurses to keep me from visiting until Monday 6 February. I had to ask the ward Junior Doctor to examine my relative’s hand and then asked him to arrange an X-ray at St Andrews Hospital which I also attended, on 6 February where it was confirmed that they had breaks to their right hand at the joints. (my relative is a pianist)

I contend that I was bullied and intimidated by 5 nurses in the dining room of the IPCU on Saturday 4 February 2012 at around 2pm for trying to see them and photograph the hand injury and bruising. The nurses refused to let me see my relative and said they didn’t want to see me yet when I got home later there was a message on my phone from my relative asking me to visit, so I went back up at 6pm as the nurses wouldn’t let me in until then. I was not allowed to take a photo of their swollen broken hand and bruising to their face and arms, when I eventually saw them at 6pm 4 February 2012. The bruising was due to restrained face-down on 1 February 2012 in the ward by 3 nurses.... 

Read complete submission

more short stories from the critical viewpoint about OT and Stratheden Hospital

In February 2012 when my son was an inpatient of the Stratheden Hospital IPCU he wasn't allowed a pen to write with unless accompanied by two nurses in the "activity room".  It seemed the OTs had abandoned the patients and left it up to the nurses to gainfully occupy the patients as well as treat them with drugs.
staff only toilet Ceres Centre Stratheden 2012
I had met with the head of OT in 2010, who is based near the Staff only toilet in the Ceres Centre at Stratheden, a long meeting that went nowhere.  She said how she'd taken her staff out of the wards at Stratheden because she was not managing to retain staff.  That was her story at the time.  All about the staff.  My concerns were more to do with the patients.

Staff centred care.  A common feature at Stratheden in my experience over the years.  Because the staff have been left to get on with stuff in a Cinderella service.  Lack of resources, bottom of the pile.  The patients and carers having to suffer for it. 

It is just not good enough.  Basic human rights denied.  No freedom of expression.  No toilet or water to drink.  

I remember attending one clinical meeting in the IPCU Feb12 and saying to the OT who was there that he should get rubbery or squidgy pens that weren't "dangerous weapons" because that was the excuse given for not allowing patients to have writing utensils.  Similarly with the plastic cutlery and no plastic bottles of water (also allegedly dangerous weapons).  

I suggested blackboards on the walls and chalk, or white boards with plastic pens.  No-one listened or appeared to listen to what I had to say.  Just like the head of OT in 2010.  Brick wall comes to mind.  And the patients, and carers, having to suffer for it.

I had a meeting in early 2011 with the then General Manager of mental health who has now taken early retirement and I wish him well.  His line manager was also there, a woman.  I complained about the head of OT not listening to the words of a carer.  I recommended that he should send her on a 6 month sabbatical, get someone else in to do a better job of it, someone who was patient centred.  I was told that this wasn't financially viable.  Unfortunately.

(however I think she did go off under her own steam a wee while back, and came back)

I really didn't appreciate being patronised by the head of OT who is/was based at Stratheden Hospital.  It's not good enough to take her staff out of the wards and expect the nurses to do occupational therapy as well as everything else.  A recipe for disaster. 

the goodies and the baddies

When my granddaughter was younger, pre-school, I used to read her stories from books and she would ask "who are the goodies and who are the baddies?" at the beginning of the story.  I understood this because I used to be the same as a child.  And to some extent it's still the same.  

Although the question might be more framed like "who is with me and who is against me" or "who's a supporter and who isn't" or "who's on the same page and who's on a different page".  

I remember aged about 9 or 10 getting a cowgirl outfit for Christmas with a holster and guns, might have been a double holster.  But it was a flared skirt, velour material, didn't much like the feel of it, with a waistcoat, a sheriff's badge, cowboy hat and frills around the edges of the outfit.  Because I was a girl.

the Lone Ranger and Tonto
We played at "cowboys and indians", it was the late 1950's, early 1960's, the Lone Ranger and Tonto a favourite TV programme, and we took turns at being the goodies and the baddies.  The main thing was to have a shootout and for some of us to play dead, to win or lose.  

At other times we played "kick the can" or "beddies" (hopscotch), climbed the pear trees, acted out stories with dressing dolls, hung upside down on the swings and did leapfrogs over whatever came in our way.  Rollerskating through Perth railway station to Craigie, up and down the ramps over the tracks, putting pennies in the machine that stamped out letters on metal strips.  

For some reason I remember liking to be upside down as a child, doing handstands against the wall in the school girls' playground, along with others.  We'd tuck our skirts in to our pants and compete with each other.  Playing doublers, throwing balls against the wall, was another favourite playtime activity, singing rhymes as we did so.

I look back happily at a time when as children, boys and girls, we could roam about the streets and get up to mischief safely, the worst of it being knocking on doors and running away.  Getting caught didn't put us off, it just meant we were more careful the next time around.  Same with getting the belt in primary 3 from a spinster teacher at Caledonian Road school.  

At the secondary school, Perth Academy, we got sent out of the room if misbehaving, and I can remember standing in the corridor on at least one occasion.  But in the maths class in first year the teacher put up with our fun and games, rolling aniseed balls up the passageways.  She took the hockey team (nickname Bandy Nicol) and she could fair run up the wing.  We liked her.

As an older teenager it was more embarassing to be banished outside the classroom on your own so a change of tactic was required and more collective challenges were mounted against any boring teachers. The point being that if they couldn't do the job right then they deserved to be poked fun at.  We had to sit there and take it, so why shouldn't they?

Nothing much has changed.  I will still challenge boring teachers and incompetent leadership.  Bullying won't make me back down.  In fact it makes me more determined to resist.  I don't appreciate people in positions of authority telling me to shut up if I have a point to make, a story to tell.  Especially if it's about abuse or injustice.  There's no way I'm keeping quiet about that sort of thing.  That's for sure.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Call to protect Scottish NHS whistleblowers

From yesterday's Sunday Times 26 October 2014:

"There is a culture of secrecy into any investigation, and certainly a culture of bullying, intimidation and victimisation.  When we hear such horrific examples, we shy away from raising concerns in the future, letting down patients."

Sunday, 26 October 2014

it was the SMHRN conference line-up that led to my resignation from the "user led" research group

Last week I realised that I couldn't sit through the forthcoming Scottish Mental Health Research Network (SMHRN) conference and therefore couldn't take part in the Scottish Mental Health User Led Research Group (of which I helped start up, did the blog and twitter for, recruited members to) workshop and therefore had to resign from the research group.  

That was the order of it.

Last year I'd attended the SMHRN annual event for the first time and it had been mostly about mice and brains, dehumanising treatment,  a very difficult experience for a person like me who has been subject to forced drug treatment in psychiatric settings, after having babies and at the menopause.  I wrote this Mad in America blog post after attending last year's SMHRN conference: 'Biomarkers for Mental Illness, Transgenic Mice, and the Otherness of Psychosis'.  

I remember sticking out like a sore thumb on the day, round peg in a square hole, and various folk avoiding me at the intervals and lunchtime.  Not wanting to speak to a psychiatric survivor, human rights campaigner and mental health activist.  I wasn't bothered.  It meant I was free to circulate and network, to ask questions and challenge, to catch up with people who I'd engaged with in Emails.  Psychiatrists and the like.

However this year's conference strapline is 'De-stigmatising Mental Illness: the Role of Science & Experience' and claims to have a "new format" with workshops and a varied input.  In theory I should have been encouraged by the changes and the opportunities.  In reality I'm not keen on the speaker line-up which I think doesn't go far enough in shifting the paradigm.

It looks like more of the same in different wrapping paper.  The separation of "mental illness" from "mental health problems", the goats from the sheep, the people who can't recover because they have genetic brain chemical deficiencies and the others who are OK, allowed to recover.  It'll be another "them and us" message with an underlying "schizophrenia" bias.   
  • "treatment resistant"
  • "treatment refractory depression requiring brain surgery for mental illness"
  • "severe and enduring mental illness"
  • "biomedical model of mental illness"
  • "non-compliant"
  • "anosognosia"
  • "without capacity"
  • "schizophrenogenic mother"
All the reasons given by biological psychiatry as to why the treatment doesn't work, the drugs don't work and why we have to be forced against our will, detained under law, stigmatised and discriminated with lifelong labels, disabled by drugs which shorten our lives drastically, causing chronicity and physical illness.

Locked in seclusion rooms, subject to abusive treatment, ritual humiliation, denial of basic human rights, risks of sexual exploitation, manipulation by unsavoury characters and made to conform to the rules or no chance of freedom.

Mental health act safeguards that aren't safe.  Advocacy that isn't independent.  Tribunals that are weighted on the side of the professionals.  Watchdogs with no teeth.  Social workers who side with an abusive system.  Adult protection investigations that blame the mother.  Advance statements that are disregarded.  No respect for carers.  And so on.

I really don't have the patience for putting up with any more of these hierarchical shenanigans if I have the choice not to. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

tweets sent earlier to senior civil servant

lawless individuals

Here's a wee story of "What If":

What if the locked seclusion room in the locked ward of a psychiatric hospital is being used by nursing staff to forcibly drug and abuse patients and nothing is written about the drugs, the force or the abuse in the records or the notes?

What if the nurse in charge of a locked ward of a psychiatric hospital keeps telling carers and family members of patients in the locked ward that the nursing staff are all about "relationships" when in fact they are more to do with coercion, bullying and intimidation?

What if the acute wards, open and locked, of a psychiatric hospital are places where vulnerable patients are at risk of, and being subject to, sexual exploitation?

What if an NHS health board is allowing and condoning the behaviour and practice of lawless individuals who are employed by them and subject to their policies and procedures.  

Who is responsible?

It absolutely and definitely isn't the patients, the carers and the family members (or the whistleblowers) who are in any way responsible for system failure and abusive practices.  That's for sure.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

my response to Dr Denise Coia post on Ayrshire Health blog

Bridging the gap between inequality and reality for those with mental illness by Dr Denise Coia (Healthcare Improvement Scotland Chair) on Ayrshire Health blog

My response:

"I am a writer, activist and campaigner in mental health matters, also an unpaid carer of two sons who have mental disorder labels/diagnoses so I wanted to declare my "conflict of interest" before making this comment which will be a critical voice.

Firstly I have been excluded from Scottish Patient Safety Programmes in Mental Health by Healthcare Improvement Scotland.  Why?  The reason given:  if I attend then others won't.  Please check this information with the HIS chair and other to verify.

Secondly I recently had a complaint against NHS Fife upheld regarding unreasonable treatment of my son in the IPCU at Stratheden Hospital, in respect of their locked seclusion room use.  A room which had no toilet or drinking water, light switch outside.  Here is the Sunday Express article which tells our story.

Thirdly, in response to Dr Coia's comments about people with mental illness dying sooner due to not getting their physical health issues treated, I would like to challenge this perspective.  There are other articles written which lay the blame for reduced life expectancy in the severe and enduringly mentally ill at the door of psychiatric drug treatment. 

The drugs or medication debilitate and disable people because of the side effects in the short term and the more serious permanent side effects in the longer term.. Which include a higher rate of diabetes, walking problems, increased social anxiety due to medicine agitation and tardive dyskinesia, a permanent disabling nerve condition due to continued long term use of neuroleptics on the brain and nerve endings. 

See article on Psychology Today by Paula Caplan

And book 'Anatomy of an Epidemic' by Robert Whitaker, "best investigative journalism book of 2010"

There are always two sides to a story and in mental health settings there is the professional's "take" on things and then there is the other, the person with "lived experience", often called the real "experts".  I am a person who has made a full recovery from "mental illness" and did this by taking charge of my own mental health, tapering and getting off the psychiatric drugs, in 2004, and getting back on with my life.

Mental illness does not need to be a disabling lifelong condition.  It could be an episodic condition with the "right" treatment, is how I look at it, and so do others.  We who have other ways of looking at mental distress and emotional crises would like to see alternative ways of working with people in psychoses that don't have to mean drug treatment, on occasion forcibly given.  There has to be a better way to "forge a ring of confidence" I contend."

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

here are some positive memories of OT at Weston Day Hospital Cupar 2002-3

Here's a wee blog post, the first in a series of stories about my family's experiences of Occupational Therapy in the mental health and psychiatric settings of North East Fife, namely Stratheden Hospital and Weston Day Hospital, Cupar, between 1995 and 2012.  

Weston Day Hospital
A few snapshots from the 17yrs, of positive OT involvement that I experienced at Weston Day Hospital 2002-3:

A highlight for me was the course run by OT Jan, Focus Education, which linked with Elmwood College at the time and where I learned to play golf and eventually went on a web design course at the college.  Jan treated the patients like equals.  I think that made all the difference.  Jan took early retirement and went to do an Art course I think.  I remember writing to the general manager when the course was stopped, a few years later, asking for it to be reinstated.

There was an OT assistant Lesley in Weston at the time, who went out on long walks with us, eg to Hopetoun Monument, taking a packed lunch.  My middle son and I sometimes went together on these.  I remember us walking through fields on the way back from Hill of Tarvit, seeing a sheep on its side and us trying to get it back on its feet.  Then going to the farmer's house and letting them know.  This was a therapeutic activity for me as a former shepherdess.  Not long after I left Weston the OT assistant also left, so I heard.

I remember a ladies group at Weston 2002/3 where we did activities like getting our nails done and going to a hotel swimming pool to relax and chat.  The socialising and pampering was therapeutic and increased self confidence.  Not sure if the outing was OT or nurse led because at the time I was on psychiatric drugs.  But I remember the OT involvement in the day hospital made a difference to the "clinical" atmosphere and I appreciated this.

Email just sent to head of OT mental health Stratheden - the word "micromanagement" a catalyst

taken Dec12 in Ceres Centre Stratheden Hospital
[Email just sent]

Dear ... (head of OT mental health NHS Fife)

Please find forwarded Email from November 2012 which I've just come upon.  Sent to you and asking for  a meeting, which never happened.  

The reason I was searching back my Emails was because of the word "micromanagement" which I remember you using with me at a meeting we had in 2010 (I read the word today in a blog post by Dr David Healy and it took me back to our meeting in your office at the Ceres Centre which at the time I found most unhelpful).  How you were not involved in the wards at Stratheden Hospital although you were/are based there.

I'm going to write a blog post about Occupational Therapy at Stratheden, in particular the IPCU where in February 2012 the patients were not even allowed pens to write with (basic human right, freedom of expression).  And I remember the OT at clinical meetings back then who seemed impotent to do anything about the regime in the ward.  Not sure why.  I'll forward you on the blog post when written.  It will have many questions which I can't answer but which I'm sure you or your cohorts will be able to answer.

The nurses said that pens were dangerous weapons, similarly plastic bottles with water in them could be used against the nurses.  The regime in that ward, back then, was very oppressive and entrenched.  The nurses used to roll their own cigarettes while on duty, in the TV room, with patients watching.  I remember doing an FOI request re IPCU policies and procedures, and they had none written down, so they said, as it "changed according to the patient population".  My response?  Great job if you can get it.  I don't know if it is any different now. 

I haven't heard from any patients recently (because I have a life outside of Stratheden Hospital) although I did hear a few weeks ago from a mother and carer who said that water bottles still weren't allowed.  I think it will take a major shift in culture and attitudes to make the psychiatric wards at Stratheden safe and therapeutic places for patients and their carers.  It will require action and not just words.  Changes in practice and not just more training and written documents.

I'm copying in ...... (acting general manager mental health, general manager NHS Fife and acting chief executive NHS Fife) who I assume are your line managers, or "above you" in terms of NHS Fife.  I suspect that the OTs and the clinical psychologists may still have no authority or power in the wards but I don't know this for sure.  It's all a bit of a mystery.  However I like mysteries and trying to solve them.  Always did.  But I do know for sure that someone is responsible for what goes on in the Fife psychiatric wards.  And it isn't me or the patients or carers or family members.  People are being paid to do a job of management and they really should be getting the job done (this is directed at clinical hierarchy).

[for interest, today I'm off the participate in the DClinPsy APEX (advisory panel for experts by experience) group at Edinburgh University.  I've been a member of this group for over 3 years.  I also take part in the Glasgow DClinPsy CUSP group (a similar user carer collective) where we engage in CBT and IPT workshop feedback with students and do other tasks linked to the course.]

Monday, 20 October 2014

looking forward

This is a short post about looking forward to being meaningfully involved in bringing about positive change to mental health and psychiatric services in Scotland.  To making straight paths and level playing fields, alongside others of like minds.  

I'd rather not focus on the negatives although the failures cannot be forgotten.  It will be a matter of continuing to have a voice and a critical perspective while also recognising what is valuable and worthwhile.  

I don't think that trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted is the best way of doing things.  We have to admit the horse did a runner and bring the animal back into the stable, repairing the damage done. 

Today I was in Edinburgh for a meeting of the Scottish Mental Health User Led Research Group at the University and it was good to share stories, to discuss topics and to make plans.  We met as equals and weren't always in agreement but that was OK, for we're all individuals and unique.  There was acceptance and appreciation, of difference and of commonality.

Two of us walked down the road together, chatting on the way to Princes Street, the journey companionable, helped by the sunny day.  It opened up creative possibilities in my mind for future developments.  That's what being meaningfully involved is all about I think.  Widening horizons.

Photos taken today:
Waverley Station Edinburgh

Princes Street gardens

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Email sent this morning to my MSP with tweets about "rights-based approaches" talk by GH at #24AEC

[Email sent this morning to my MSP, copied in to other government ministers with portfolio]


I am writing to you as my MSP.

Please find attached screenshots of 6 tweets I made this morning, on finding out that GH was speaking on "rights-based approaches" at tomorrow's Alzheimer Europe conference in Glasgow:

This civil (uncivil) servant undermined and bullied me in an Email on 24 June 2014 which caused me stress and anxiety, and I had to cancel a talk I was giving at an international conference in Liverpool the next day (INTAR), losing the money I spent on the train fare, losing the opportunity to speak out about mental health act safeguards.  Then on 27 June 2014 my son had to call out the paramedics on my behalf because I had palpitations and feeling faint.  I have high blood pressure and can be intolerant to medication.

I made a complaint about Mr H which was investigated by YS, Scottish Government, but my complaint was not upheld, I got the decision letter on 2 October 2014, from PG's office.  There are a number of discrepancies in the investigation report.  I shall be taking my complaint further, to the SPSO, in the hope of getting justice for the damage done to my reputation and so that my complaint may be investigated properly.  For Mr H copied other senior mental health workers in Scotland which was humiliating and I believe a bullying action.  I am very unhappy about this.

I alerted Mr H to the issues in Stratheden Hospital's Lomond Ward in 2010, about the risks to women and the unprofessional behaviour of psychiatric nurses.  I contend it is unfair and unjust that he should try to undermine my reputation because he has not done his job properly.  I contend that he is not a fit person to be leading mental health matters in Scottish Government or to be speaking out about "rights-based approaches".  I am not the only one who thinks this.

Yours sincerely, 

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003: Section 315

[thanks to a fellow mental health campaigner for informing us about Part 21, Section 315 of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003]

315    Ill-treatment and wilful neglect of mentally disordered person

(1)This section applies to a person (a “relevant person”) who—

(a)is an individual employed in, or contracted to provide services in or to, a hospital;

(b)not being the Scottish Ministers, is a manager of a hospital;

(c)provides care services; or

(d)is an individual who, otherwise than—

(i)by virtue of a contract of employment or other contract with any person; or

(ii)as a volunteer for a voluntary organisation,

provides care or treatment.

(2)A relevant person who—

(a)whether under this Act or otherwise—

(i)is providing care or treatment; or

(ii)purports to provide care or treatment,

to a patient; and

(b)ill-treats, or wilfully neglects, that patient,

shall be guilty of an offence.

(3)A person guilty of an offence under subsection (2) above shall be liable—

(a)on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both;

(b)on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or to a fine or to both.

(4)In subsection (1)(c) above, the reference to the provision of care services shall be construed in accordance with section 313(5) of this Act.

Friday, 17 October 2014

My Evidence Submitted to Health and Sport Committee Scottish Parliament re Mental Health (Scotland) Bill

[Today I Emailed this submission to the Health and Sport Committee at Scottish Parliament as evidence in respect of the Mental Health (Scotland) Bill] 

A Plea: Fair and Just Treatment for All People in Psychiatric Settings 

"The overarching objective of the Bill is stated in the policy memorandum as: to help people with a mental disorder to access effective treatment quickly and easily.

I am looking for more than this.  As a mother and carer of two sons with mental disorder labels I want to see:

  • The Mental Health Act implemented properly and monitored effectively in every Scottish Health Board area, including Fife where I live 
  • Mental Health Act safeguards that are safe: in my family’s experience we have found that advance statements were overruled, named persons (myself) were uninformed, Mental Health Tribunals were weighted in favour of “professionals”, Mental Health Officers behaved unprofessionally and the Mental Welfare Commission were wise after the event and had no power to influence health boards to improve buildings that they had declared “unfit for purpose” 
  • Carers, and mothers, respected by all mental health professionals, including Scottish Government civil servants and Healthcare Improvement Scotland 
  •  Patients not subject to dehumanising treatment and a denial of their basic human rights when locked up and locked in Scottish psychiatric units.

On 29 September 2014 I received a decision letter from SPSO informing me that my complaint against NHS Fife Health Board (submitted to the Ombudsman on 17 September 2013) had been upheld.  I had originally wanted the judgement to be about “human rights abuses and dehumanising treatment” but I was told by the SPSO adviser in September that the most I could hope for was “unreasonable treatment”.  Human rights abuses would have to go before a criminal court. 

Here are the reasons given by the Ombudsman Complaints Reviewer as to why my complaint was upheld:

“It was inappropriate to transfer your son to the IPCU in his underwear and without shoes (I had observed this happening when standing in the car park outside the acute psychiatric ward).  In addition, I do not consider that the observation of your son in the seclusion room was adequate or that there is evidence of a plan to ensure that your son had appropriate access to food, fluids and a toilet during his period of seclusion.  This is not acceptable.”

I am not satisfied with this decision as I had listed a range of complaints, including injuries untreated, intimidating behaviour and psychiatric abuse. Therefore I have made a Review Request, detailing a large number of inaccuracies in the written report within the letter, by NHS Fife Health Board, and the conclusions that were reached.  I have also asked for a copy of all the evidence sent by NHS Fife Health Board to the Ombudsman because I am not confident that all my complaints and FOI requests made at the time were handed over to SPSO.  The investigation I contend was not a “level playing field”.

I am concerned that there is a two-tier treatment regime in Scotland’s psychiatric system and that this is reinforced by Scottish Government’s Mental Health Strategy which differentiates between “common mental health problems” and “severe and enduring mental illness”.  And for those of us in the latter category it can lead to stigma and discrimination, to unreasonable treatment, to disabling mental and physical conditions and to a much shorter life span.  This is unfair and unjust.

I was/am one of those labelled with a mental disorder, Schizoaffective, in 2002 after being coercively treated in a psychiatric ward with an antipsychotic when experiencing a menopausal psychosis, which lead to further drugs being prescribed, an antidepressant venlafaxine, maximum doses, and a “mood stabiliser”.  Finally I was told that I had a “lifelong mental illness” and could not expect to recover or to come off the “mood stabiliser” lithium.  Fortunately I am a skeptic and didn’t believe it. 

I made a full recovery by 2004, under my own steam, although I had a serious leg break in March 2005 aged 53, resulting in 3 fractures to my fibula when only walking down a stair, after a library job interview.  Research now tells us that venlafaxine in maximum doses given to older people can result in bone loss.  That explains my leg break and 6 inch metal plate which is now welded to my fibula and causes me arthritic pain and cramp. 

I believe that my “lived experience” of recovery from coercive psychiatric drug treatment and stigmatising mental disorder labels has benefitted my family members, 8 of us in 3 generations, who have engaged with psychiatry and got the “severe and enduring mental illness” because of experiencing psychoses or altered mind states at times of life transitions.  And because the drugs didn’t cure anything.  I was able to advocate for my family in psychiatric circumstances and give mentoring support for those who decided to taper and come off psychiatric drugs/medication. 

I am now a writer, activist and campaigner in mental health matters because of personal circumstances and having to stand with family members, to support and protect them in psychiatric settings.  But I shouldn’t have to

The Mental Health Act for Scotland should be protecting the rights of people who have been given a mental disorder diagnosis.  Scottish Government civil servants should be supporting mothers and campaigners who are influencing positive change.  Scottish Government Ministers should be overseeing the civil servants and the mental health law so that mothers, carers and campaigners are being given their place and respected.

I hope that the Health and Sport Committee will consider my Plea.
Chrys Muirhead  17 October 2014

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Robert Whitaker‬ 'Anatomy of an Epidemic' Lecture Cupar Fife Scotland November 2011 on #SoundCloud

(just came upon this audio recording)

Robert Whitaker‬, author of 'Anatomy of an Epidemic', giving a Lecture at Elmwood College, Cupar, Fife, Scotland, on 19 November 2011, on #SoundCloud 

Introduction and closing thanks from Prof Phil Barker and Poppy Buchanan-Barker, architects of the Tidal Model of nursing practice.

And here's the video recording: 

Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic, public lecture Cupar, Fife, Scotland, 19 November 2011 from Chrys Muirhead on Vimeo.

another critical Courier article written by a former facebook "friend" (as of 15 October 2014)

[Email sent to The Courier 16 October 2014]   

Anonymous Glenrothes woman: "If people read things like this they could end up killing themselves"

Irresponsible reporting, in my opinion.  I say this as a writer and blogger, a social networker and campaigner.  Fortunately someone has alerted me to the piece this morning by Email.  

Firstly, I don't doubt that the Glenrothes woman has found her care and treatment to be OK but others have not found it to be good.  In fact some people, I contend, have killed themselves because the treatment has been sub standard and sub human.  But I didn't say this in a news article.

Secondly, this type of prose is more suited to the tabloids than the local paper.  I would have liked to see something more sophisticated.

Thirdly, there are others who have had their human rights abused in Stratheden's IPCU and it goes back a long way.  The culture is a negative one, especially for anyone who whistleblows.

I am disappointed in seeing two articles which are critical of my complaint, both written by the same reporter who I did have as a facebook friend and who now isn't, as of yesterday.  I would recommend that you try and report incidents in a balanced manner.  It does not help the cause of patients in Stratheden Hospital to be setting one person against another. 

The fact that I had my complaint upheld by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman was a big event in mental health circles.  It doesn't often happen as usually the "mentally ill" do not have a voice.  This is a victory for human rights in psychiatric settings. 

If you are going to be reporting on my family's story then I would appreciate, in future, that you let me know.  That is an appropriate way of behaving.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

'Claims Stratheden Hospital patient was ‘dehumanised’ denied' a painful strapline from The Courier on 13 October 2014

I have just come upon this article in The Courier online from 13 October 2014 with the strapline:  'Claims Stratheden Hospital patient was ‘dehumanised’ denied'.

It felt like I was coming under attack again by NHS Fife health board staff for trying to protect my son and our reputation.  I am not happy with the article strapline and content.  It has caused me pain.

Here are the comments from Dr Brian Montgomery, new chief executive of NHS Fife:

"“At all times the primary concern of the psychiatric staff was the safety of both Mr Muirhead and other patients,” he said.

“NHS Fife considers that the reporting of this matter does not fully reflect the full set of difficult circumstances faced by its staff on this occasion, nor does it reflect the full terms and findings of the SPSO letter that was issued in response to the complaints made.

I have sent an Email to Dr Montgomery, in response to his comments, expressing disappointment at the strapline and what he had to say, refuting his statements that patient safety was the primary concern of the staff and stating again that to use a locked seclusion room with no toilet or water to drink, for hours on end, was and is dehumanising.  It is a matter of human rights abuse.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

it would break your heart

I remember in 1995 when my oldest son became unwell after leaving home to go to university in Glasgow.  It was the summer after first year at uni and he began to have altered perceptions.  I knew this during a phone call from him when I was a leader at a Christian summer 'Discovery' camp at Glenshee, think it was.

I quickly went home to see what he was like and knew it was a psychosis, that he would require hospital treatment in the local psychiatric institution, Stratheden Hospital.  We lived on what used to be the hospital farm, then Elmwood College Farm as my husband was the dairyman.  My oldest son had practised driving around the grounds with me sitting beside him.

I was broken-hearted on seeing my son in a psychosis as I knew what lay before him.  And so it was but even worse than what I'd expected.  The state of care in Lomond Ward, Stratheden, was dire in 1995 and it's even worse now.  I had to keep an eye on my son back then because the nurses didn't.  There was an injury and a complaint made by me about bad practice.  Nothing changes.

It meant I had to toughen up and so I did.  There's nothing quite like disempowerment and bad practice for toughening up one's resolve.  It was either that or go under, and I definitely wasn't going to do that.  Too much was at stake.

Eventually my oldest son made a full recovery, with my support, getting off the psychiatric drugs and getting back to university in Dundee, nearer to home, where he lives now, as it happens, and where he was born, in Ninewells Hospital.  He achieved a 1st class honours degree in the summer of 1998, when I got my postgraduate diploma in community education, and has never looked back.

Then on Friday past I received an Email from a man who I've known for 5 years, first meeting him at the United We Stand conference I ran in October 2009.  He sent me his story in the Email and today told me more of what happened, following his inpatient stay as a teenager in Ward 4 (IPCU) of Stratheden Hospital in 1981.

It would break your heart.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

'Stand up to Mental Health Act' Letter by Hunter Watson, Sunday Express 12 October 2014

'Legal clampdown to stop cover-ups of NHS patient abuse and neglect' Herald Sunday 12 October 2014

Herald Scotland'Legal clampdown to stop cover-ups of NHS patient abuse and neglect'
Sunday Herald 12 October 2014

"ALL health and social care services staff will be legally obliged to tell families when a patient has been ­accidentally harmed under new Scottish Government proposals.

Health Secretary Alex Neil will announce the plans, which form part of a UK-wide effort to end cover-ups of abuse and neglect of NHS patients highlighted after the inquiry into the deaths of up to 1200 patients at two Mid Staffordshire hospitals.

Known as a "statutory duty of candour", the new rules force hospitals to disclose all harm caused to patients. The proposal was a key recommendation of Robert Francis QC, who led the inquiry into the Mid Staffs scandal. The Scottish Government says it will launch a consultation on proposals to introduce a statutory duty of candour for care services designed to improve transparency and drive up standards.

The move falls short of Francis's recommendation to make non-disclosure of harm caused a criminal offence for NHS doctors, nurses or managers. However, the Scottish Government believes it will make it easier for staff to speak out ..."

"Neil said: "The Scottish Government strongly supports duty of candour and believes all health and social care staff must be honest and transparent in everything that they do in order to best serve and protect those who rely on their services.

"Outlining our intention to put this important principle into legislation places a duty on every service to give an explanation to any person who suffers harm and, where appropriate, an apology ..."

Read complete article


Yet again Government fails to make this a criminal offence. Unless people at the top are heavily fined/jailed for this sort of thing it will continue to happen in our NHS. What is meant by 'they will be held accountable' ?? Utterly meaningless! We need a national public inquiry into such failings (and the endemic and institutional corruption and bullying) in the NHS in Scotland and we need it now! Craig White presided over the adverse event disaster at NHS Ayrshire and Arran where no-one learned from adverse events because staff were not allowed to see or read the reports from such incidents and therefore nothing was learned from them.Talk about putting Foxes in charge of Chicken Coops!??

my response to this comment:

I agree with Rab Wilson's comment, having been subject to bullying and intimidation by NHS and Scottish Government staff. Why? Because I raised issues of patient safety as a mother and carer, as an activist and campaigner, in our local psychiatric setting. We need transparency and level playing fields in terms of patients, carers and whistleblowers being protected.

I recently have had a complaint of unreasonable treatment by NHS Fife health board upheld by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, for their use of a locked seclusion room in a locked mental health facility on my son, which had no toilet and drinking water, and no proper plans for toileting, food and water intake.

I raised awareness of the human rights issues and for my sins was targeted in an adult protection investigation report by Fife Council and other statutory agencies. I used blogs to keep up the pressure in the midst of my complaining but it takes a strong person to survive the experience.