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"
- "without capacity"
- "schizophrenogenic mother"
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.