Tuesday, 28 July 2015

the legend of Lady Godiva

"Two monks at St. Albans Abbey in Hertfordshire first recorded this amazing story in Latin. Roger of Wendover wrote of it in the twelfth century and Mathew Paris in the early thirteenth century. As the Abbey stood at an important road junction, it would seem that the monks may have heard the story from travellers who were on their way from the Midlands to London.

The astonishing tale that has come down to us through the centuries, is that sometime in the eleventh-century a proud, pious lady rode through Coventry on Market Day completely naked, covered by nothing but her long hair!"

Lady Godiva by John Collier (1898)

"Lady Godiva was the lady, wife of Leofric, the Earl of Mercia. Earl Leofric was one of the all-powerful lords who ruled England under the Danish King Canute.

Lady Godiva was a rich landowner in her own right and one of her most valuable properties was Coventry.

Leofric was a tyrant, he tyrannised the Church and did not hold the same religious convictions as his wife, nor her fondness for the Midlands and its populace.

He mercilessly demanded from the people of Coventry an oppressive tax called the Heregeld. This tax paid for King Canute's bodyguard and Leofric made sure that the people of Coventry paid it!

Lady Godiva pleaded with Leofric to stop this hated tax and he is reputed to have said, "You will have to ride naked through Coventry before I will change my ways".

He was quite sure that his demure, modest wife would never do such a thing.

But Lady Godiva took him at his word, and on Market Day in Coventry she rode naked, veiled only by her long golden hair. As her hair was long enough to cover all her body, only her face and legs could be seen.

Leofric was so stunned by the whole incident that he believed it was a miracle that no one had seen his wife's naked body, and he immediately "freed" the town from paying the hated Heregeld, and at the same time ceased his persecution of the Church."

From Historic UK

Saturday, 25 July 2015

paradigm shift? @CoyneoftheRealm: Yes to an epiphany

slide 32 @CoyneoftheRealm
This is the first in a series of posts in response to the Professor James Coyne seminar in the Division of Psychiatry, Kennedy Tower, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, on 22 July 2015, with the strapline 'BPS’s Understanding psychosis and schizophrenia - a skeptic's perspective'.  Which I attended with a critical voice and from the psychiatric survivor perspective.

Firstly I want to say that I hadn't realised the event was specifically to do with the British Psychological Society's report because their name wasn't on the promotional material.  And so I was concerned at the start of the seminar that it was going to be a head bashing event:

I think my concerns were justified because it did appear to be a "them and us" occasion by the very fact that there were no clinical psychologists in the audience to make a response or challenge Jim Coyne.  The "Division of Psychiatry" is well named.  I say this as a person who is determined to cross the line and to bring down the barriers between psychiatry and the psychiatrised or those who find themselves, like I did, within their walls, being forcibly drugged, against my will. 

I would prefer to be standing with clinical psychology, arm in arm, but it's been very difficult over the last few years of trying to be "meaningfully involved" in their academic endeavours or celebrity milieu, because they wouldn't let me join their inner circle.  Despite my being one of the first Mad in America writers and the person who invited Robert Whitaker to Scotland, firstly going to Athlone, Ireland, with my son, to hear him speak in February 2011.

So I attended this seminar as a critical voice, of psychiatry and clinical psychology, with a preference for the former because it has been psychiatrists who have been there for my family, 8 of us since the 1950's, when we were experiencing psychoses, some of us receiving a schizophrenia label.  A mixed bunch of psychiatrists as in any workplace, some more helpful than others.  Two of them, in my experience, willing to support the tapering of drugs, in 1985 and 2012.

Some of my family have engaged with clinical psychology since 2002 as a psychiatric patient and it hasn't been a particularly positive experience, on one occasion it was very negative.  Although we didn't have them when in a psychosis, rather it was when we had been on the antipsychotics for a while and eventually got an appointment.  Either because there was a waiting list or because the psychiatrist wouldn't allow it or refer us.

I haven't been impressed with the competence of clinical psychology since engaging with them in Fife from 2008 when I set up the voluntary organisation Peer Support Fife to promote the model of PS in mental health recovery.  Also because I wasn't treated as an equal by lead CP managers, in any meetings I had with them in their Fife bases.  They were patronising and dismissive, as if my life experience, of community development and surviving psychoses/psychiatry, was of little value.  I wasn't used to being disrespected.  It was very annoying to be treated as less than.  At age 55, a mother and granny.  

At the seminar in the Division of Psychiatry my attendance was critical, generally and not specifically, and the fact that I was among many psychiatrists and their supporters, did not phase me.  Because I have always felt that psychiatric settings were, in some sense, a home from home, having engaged with psychiatrists since 1970, aged 17, when my mother was an inpatient of Kinnoull Ward, Murray Royal Hospital, Perth.  A locked ward for women in mental distress.  

I visited my mother in Kinnoull that summer of '70, while my younger sisters, 9 and 4 years, were in temporary foster care because my granny had died in the July and she had been helping look after us.  My grandpa was lost without her, for a time, so my auntie had to take charge of his affairs while also organising support for my sisters and I.  My father was in London, having lost his writing job with the Daily Express, and he wasn't in good mental health.  Our family had fractured.

I remember visiting my mother and she was distressed about another woman in the ward who had killed her child, and coming away crying myself.  I also remember meeting with psychiatrists, it may have been two of them, men, and they said I had an "old head on young shoulders".  And through that summer I kept in touch with my mother and my sisters, who were living on a farm near Crieff, while working full-time as an auxiliary nurse in Burghmuir Hospital, Perth, in a ward for elderly women.  Doing bed baths and emptying bedpans, tending to pressure sores, moving and feeding patients, being "let off" having to wash the bodies of any who died.  For which I was thankful.

summer of '70
I had a boyfriend who helped me buy a motorbike, a BSA Bantam 175cc, and he taught me how to ride it, to use the kickstart, and to wear the half helmet, although at that time in 1970 headgear wasn't compulsory.  We drove out into the Perthshire countryside, around Dunkeld and up into the Sma' Glen, places where I used to go with my grandparents in their wee red Mini, early 1960's.  I also took the Bantam out myself and remember it breaking down, having to push it a few miles back into town.  Great adventures which helped bring balance to my life.

On my 18th birthday in September 1970, a Monday morning, I took the train to Aberdeen to begin my 1st year of an MA at the university, and my mother was discharged from the psychiatric hospital. 

Therefore in the writing of my story about first engaging with psychiatry I realise that it was a positive experience.  The psychiatrists acting in loco parentis and social work collaborating to provide respite for my sisters, supporting us all in the process.  I'd forgotten the good bits because of the bad bits that happened in psychiatric settings, in the years between then and now.  You might describe it as an epiphany.  A light bulb moment.  

It will be the reason as to why I have always voluntarily entered a psychiatric ward when in a psychosis myself, in 1978, 1984 and 2002.  Expecting the same sort of treatment I got in 1970.  [I've also taken my 3 sons into psychiatry and supported them out]  Only to be disappointed every time with the forcing of antipsychotics into my system, against my will, despite me having the capacity to know I didn't want to be forced or drugged.  The difference being that in 1970 I wasn't a mental patient, my mother was.  And I didn't know what it felt like until I had to go through it myself.

Hartwoodhill Hospital
You don't know what it's like to have your agency taken away until it happens to you.  The disempowerment and the injustice of being held down by at least 3 psychiatric nurses who pull your pants down and stick a needle into your backside [Hartwoodhill Hospital, Lanarkshire].  Forcing you to conform to the regime and to come out of a psychosis on their terms.  Because you have felt the pain of induced childbirth and reacted to it by going into an altered mind state, to escape for a while.  (thanks to Dr Samei Huda yesterday, and at other times, on twitter for engaging and helping me make sense of my puerperal and menopausal psychoses).

So I say Yes to an epiphany and Yes to a paradigm shift that will mean treating a person in a psychiatric setting as an individual with the capacity to say No to forced drugging and invasion of personal space.  I resent the fact that I was forced.  The drugs depressed me and I had to taper them so as to recover and get back my life, the sense of adventure.  I had to do it myself every time and it's just not good enough because I trusted them to take care of me as if they were my parents.  But they didn't.  

On the contrary they put me at risk, particularly in 2002 in Lomond Ward, Stratheden Hospital, Fife, where the female patients were in dormitory accommodation with male patients in single rooms down the same corridor and no nurses around to protect or to keep us safe.  I know for a fact that women in that ward as patients were at risk of sexual exploitation, in 2010 and in 2012, and may still be.  

Fortunately nothing happened to me because I swallowed the drugs under coercion then got myself discharged within a week, so as to make a sharp exit.  Then I remarried my husband to make sure I had a close friend who would stand with me in my recovery.  Because he had stood with me after the forced drugging in 1978 and 1984, helped me to escape ECT by taking me out of the ward in my pyjamas [avoiding ECT when hospitalised in 1978 after first postpartum psychosis; then Krypton Factor 1980].

I am fortunate to have had many allies over the years when resisting the force and escaping the system.  And these have included psychiatrists, up to this present day, one of whom is a very good friend and shares his life with me on a daily basis, with encouragement, treating me like an equal and demonstrating that very quality which I glimpsed in psychiatry back in 1970 when my mother was in the Kinnoull Ward of Murray Royal Hospital, Perth [Dr Peter J Gordon: Hole Ousia].  

That is the paradigm shift which I'm looking for.  Level playing fields.  Being treated like an equal.  Having the right to say No.  Alternative ways of working with people in mental distress that don't just mean forcing drugs into us until we become compliant.  It will require psychiatry to stop shoring up the divisions and for clinical psychology to start behaving responsibly, inclusively, welcoming diversity.  Then psychiatric nursing can do the job they were trained for, being with the person, listening and supporting.  Making "the world feel like a much less dangerous place" [thanks to friend Mary MacCallum Sullivan, psychotherapist, supervisor and teacher, for this quote].


slide 7

Dear Professor Coyne I make no apologies for telling a story because for me the evidence base is the story

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Have we thought through a reactive media statement? asks board member

After sending my blog post 'mental illness is big business' to the CEO of the national care provider, copied in to board members, I got a fast response (makes a change), apparently by accident, from one of their board, sent on their work Email (a national animal charity) which was directed at the CEO and said this:

"Following these emails, a couple of thoughts:

-          Have we thought through a reactive media statement in case we are contacted by any journalists? Simple (if misinformed) messages such as “I don't suppose there is an incentive for an organisation like yours to promote, or to believe in, recovery from mental illness” can easily gain traction in the media, so it’s usefully to be prepared.
-          Do we have one or two supportive voices who can help add a little balance to the story? Many of our service users’ stories will speak for themselves but not many will want to be in the media spotlight. Some anonymised quotes might be useful, as would some words of support from other respected organisations that can help tell the other side of the story.
-          Can (national care provider organisation) turn this into a positive opportunity to campaign for less stigma in the workplace? Very few organisations do and say everything right all of the time, so if there is something we can improve, there is potentially a positive story to tell. The reality is that the problem exists, even if it may be being misrepresented in this case.

You probably have all of this in hand already." (bolding is mine)

I have to be honest.  The words "misinformed" and "misrepresented" were really annoying and insulting.  The board member tried to retract their words by sending an automatic "recall" Email.  I replied by saying "Too late".  Then a longer response with a recommendation that they should not be using their day job Email for their voluntary activities.  Very unprofessional in my opinion.

And so I forwarded their Email on to various individuals working with See Me Scotland and their associates, people who head up Scottish organisations who support people with mental illness and disabilities.  Reiterating that Ruby Wax had the right idea:

"If you become mentally ill, don’t – whatever you do – tell your boss. That’s Ruby Wax’s advice. The comedian and author, who was recently awarded an OBE for her services to mental health, told the Times: “When people say, ‘Should you tell them at work?’, I say: ‘Are you crazy?’ You have to lie. If you have someone who is physically ill, they can’t fire you. They can’t fire you for mental health problems but they’ll say it’s for another reason. Just say you have emphysema.” Mental illness, she added, “is like the situation used to be with gay rights. Like being in the closet, but mental illness is now the taboo instead.”'

Guardian article 6 July 2015

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

mental illness is big business

Email just sent to CEO of national care provider, copied in to board directors:

Strapline: mental illness is big business

"I don't suppose there is an incentive for an organisation like yours to promote, or to believe in, recovery from mental illness. 

It keeps you and the organisation in business.  Caring for the mentally ill.

As for me, I've never believed in mental illness, since 17, in 1970, and seeing my mother in the locked ward of a mental hospital.  No way to treat a lady.  And so, when I got puerperal psychosis, twice, in 1978 and 1984, then a menopausal psychosis, in 2002, plus the requisite forced drug treatment against my will, I eventually made a full recovery, by tapering the drugs, within a year or two, under my own strength.

I never admitted to mental health history in any job applications, knowing full well it would go against me.  I've worked in community development since 1980, with children and young people for 20 plus years, leading groups and activities, in the community, in schools, in colleges, in churches.  I have postgrad qualifications in community education and FE lecturing, care subjects.  Now 62 I have had a full and varied work life, a lot of it voluntary, some of it paid. 

Stigma and discrimination is alive and kicking in mental health matters.  Worse now than ever before.  But that doesn't excuse you or your organisation if you are jumping on the bandwagon.

Particularly since you make money out of the mentally ill.

There is no point in government trying to force folk into work when employers discriminate against people who have mental health history.  A vicious circle. There is no incentive to get a paid job if that is the case.

The irony is that this care provider works with people who have mental health issues.  The game's a bogey.  They don't promote recovery because their clients would recover and they would lose business.   It's all about the money.   Mental illness is big business.

The recovery movement in Scotland has ground to a halt. Because there is no money in it.

Seminar 'Understanding psychosis and schizophrenia: a skeptic's perspective' @CoyneoftheRealm Edinburgh 22 July 2015

Seminar: 'Understanding psychosis and schizophrenia: a skeptic's perspective'  
with James Coyne PhD 
Edinburgh, 22 July 2015, 4.00pm-5.00pm:

"Division of Psychiatry, Kennedy Tower, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Edinburgh:

James Coyne PhD will be visiting the Division of Psychiatry on Wednesday 22 July and will be giving a talk on "Understanding psychosis and schizophrenia - a skeptic's perspective".

Professor Coyne is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Professor of Health Psychology, University Medical Center, Groningen, and Distinguished Visiting Professor, Institute for Health Policy, Rutgers, the state University of New Jersey. 

He aims to give a lively and provocative talk that clinicians who work with seriously disturbed people would appreciate.
Professor Coyne is also 2015 Carnegie Centenary Professor at Stirling University: 

[I plan to attend, another skeptic]

Monday, 20 July 2015

the advantages of having a psychiatrist who listens

This is a wee post in praise of psychiatrists who listen.  To what their patient wants, in terms of drug prescribing.  And who support tapering of psychiatric drugs when it makes sense to do so.  Working with the person and their carer or peer in the process.

It's not been my experience that all or even many psychiatrists are good listeners.  Rather I have found some to be over-protective and patriarchal, believers in polypharmacy as a cure for all ills.  Drugging up the women in their care as if doing them a favour.  Keeping them dependent, on them and on the system.  Keeping themselves in a job.

Are you tearful?  Was the question continually asked of me by my psychiatrist back in 2002/3.  I said No.  That I was flat as a pancake due to the drugs.  Which seemed to be the right answer.  Devoid of emotion preferable to crying women.  But that's a mistake.  Better out than in.  

Anyway I'm not a greeter or cry baby and prefer complaining to tears.  

And so I had to make myself better, get back into the real world and out of the drugged state.  I did it by volunteering, engaging with society, going out and about even if I didn't feel like it.  Fighting the demotivation and sluggishness of the drug cocktail.  No help from the psychiatrist who had labelled me with schizoaffective disorder, to justify the polypharmacy and the fact that the drugs don't work, don't cure, don't heal.  Anything.

There was resistance at the final hurdle, getting off the lithium, because of the disorder label in my notes.  But I didn't believe it so it had no power over me.  The psychiatrist had pinned it on me to justify the drugging was how I saw it.  Any injuries or disabling side effects were put down to "mental illness". 

Sticky labels.

I want to see more psychiatrists listening to their patients.  Really listening.  I want them to go easy on the drugs.  Light-handed in the prescribing.  Trusting more in the person and in their own therapeutic listening skills.  Being more human and less godlike. 

It will require psychiatric nursing and clinical psychology to up their game, improve their practice and become more independent practitioners.  Standing with the person/patient and not playing second fiddle to the psychiatrist.  A paradigm shift is what I'm looking for.  Real person-centre care with drugs on the back-burner. 

Sunday, 19 July 2015

mental health disability discrimination: care providers making job applicants jump through hoops

I contend that if employers subject people with mental health labels to "special treatment" during their job application processes then they are guilty of contravening the Disability Discrimination Act.  Of breaking the law. 

If the "special treatment" consists of making the job applicant who has been offered the job attend more than one doctor interview, travel over 80mls for a meeting, get a written report from a psychiatrist, subjecting them to stigmatising language over the phone with human resources staff, then they are discriminating against the person with mental health history.  

Or trying to put the candidate off working with the organisation by singling them out for "special treatment".  Scapegoating I call it.  

I think that it is even more concerning when the care provider claims to work "in a person-centred way", to promote recovery focused services and actually works with people who have mental health difficulties.  

"Special treatment" which goes on for nearly 5 months after a job offer has been made, without any reason given, except to say it's the "process", is just not good enough.  

What annoys me most about this carry-on is that I'd delivered recovery focused training to clients and staff from this organisation in Nov/Dec 2008, in Glasgow.  I gave them free materials and met with their management staff at the time, in Glasgow and in Perth.  I thought they were genuine in their promotion of recovery.  However now I wouldn't recommend anyone else to go through this organisation's recruitment process if they had a mental health condition or label.   


Ruby Wax had it right, in the Guardian article, 6 July 2015 'Should you tell your boss about mental illness?':

"If you become mentally ill, don’t – whatever you do – tell your boss. That’s Ruby Wax’s advice. The comedian and author, who was recently awarded an OBE for her services to mental health, told the Times: “When people say, ‘Should you tell them at work?’, I say: ‘Are you crazy?’ You have to lie. If you have someone who is physically ill, they can’t fire you. They can’t fire you for mental health problems but they’ll say it’s for another reason. Just say you have emphysema.” Mental illness, she added, “is like the situation used to be with gay rights. Like being in the closet, but mental illness is now the taboo instead.”'

Friday, 17 July 2015

Disability Discrimination Act 1995: letter to Martin Cawley CEO of Turning Point Scotland

Letter just sent today, 17 July 2015, to Martin Cawley, Chief Executive of Turning Point Scotland:

Strapline: Disability Discrimination Act 1995

"Dear Mr Cawley

I am writing to you as CEO of Turning Point Scotland to remind you of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

In particular I would like to draw your attention to Section 4: Discrimination against applicants and employees


"(1)It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a disabled person—

(a)in the arrangements which he makes for the purpose of determining to whom he should offer employment;

(b)in the terms on which he offers that person employment; or

(c)by refusing to offer, or deliberately not offering, him employment."

I hope that you are ensuring that ALL Turning Point Scotland employees, particularly those within your Human Resources department, understand that it is against the law for employers to discriminate against people who have disabilities.  Both in your application and selection processes, and in the way that you treat people who have disabilities.  

Yours sincerely,

Chrys Muirhead (Mrs)"

reductionism and psychiatry: when prescribers become drug pushers; links with experimental ACING/NMD

I've been hearing recently, again in Dundee, how psychiatric patients, in the community, are being kept on drug cocktails, over the recommended maximum doses in some cases, even when a person is keen to taper and is managing their mental health responsibly.  Recovery isn't being promoted by psychiatrists, rather they are keeping people drugged up and disabled.

There has to be a link with biological psychiatry and reductionist thinking.  That all mental health issues are brain related and in the genes.  Rather than mental health issues are caused by problems in life, including trauma, abuse, bullying, inequality, pain and poverty.  Easier to reduce mental anguish to brain stuff so as to contain it with drugs.  Much more of a challenge to see the person holistically, mind and body, spirit and soul.  Taking time to listen and to help the person work through the issues, develop or rediscover resilience.

The Advanced Interventions Service is based at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, where psychiatrists are experimenting with ACING/anterior cingulotomies (NMD or brain surgery for mental illness).  Irreversible surgery which doesn't cure, rather people are coming back for more because they are desperate and I think because of the attention they are getting.  Much more resource per head of person in DAIS than in ordinary mental health services.

To be a candidate for DAIS a person has to have had at least 2 courses of ECT and many courses of drug prescribing which were ineffective.  Diagnoses of OCD and depression are most common for referrals, also bipolar disorder. Is this why in Carseview Centre, Dundee, where there are two rooms set aside for ACING/anterior cingulotomies, there is a bias towards ECT and polypharmacy?  Prospective candidates for the Dundee Advanced Interventions Service?

Yesterday evening I sent a few tweets to Dr David Christmas, psychiatrist with DAIS, suggesting we work together on helping people taper their psychiatric drugs:

No response as yet from Dr Christmas.

I contend that if the drugs don't work then the drugs don't work.  No point in blaming the person for a failed paradigm.  Fiddling in brains does not get to the root of the problem.  Which is complex, to do with living and particular to each person.  Pushing drugs on vulnerable people is a criminal act if there is no prescription.  Drug prescribing in psychiatry therefore deserves more scrutiny, particularly where there are conflicts of interest.  Links with drug companies and/or to reductionist thinking.

We are more than guinea pigs or mice, to be experimented on, and it is way beyond time that we stopped scapegoating mentally ill people, consigning them to a dead-end road.  I got out of the cul-de-sac by not believing the lifelong prognosis of mental illness.  Nothing miraculous about it.  Rather it was a matter of scepticism, resistance and dogged determination.  Recovering from psychosis and coercive psychiatric drug treatment.


'Towards a hermeneutic shift in psychiatry' perspective by Dr Pat Bracken, World Psychiatry, Oct14

"I do not believe that we will ever be able to explain the meaningful world of human thought, emotion and behaviour reductively, using the “tools of clinical neuroscience”.  This world is simply not located inside the brain. Neuroscience offers us powerful insights, but it will never be able to ground a psychiatry that is focused on interpretation and meaning. Indeed, it is clear that there is a major hermeneutic dimension to neuroscience itself (17). A mature psychiatry will embrace neuroscience but it will also accept that “the neurobiological project in psychiatry finds its limit in the simple and often repeated fact: mental disorders are problems of persons, not of brains. Mental disorders are not problems of brains in labs, but of human beings in time, space, culture, and history.”

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

"very happy to acknowledge that my involvement has not been at Stratheden Hospital" says MSP Liz Smith (& my response)

Liz Smith MSP web page
I wrote to my regional MSP this morning 15 July 2015, about the Courier article 'MSP demands full T in the Park review, claiming “public safety was compromised” in move to Strathallan', saying:

"This is commendable.

However as a mother and carer who has had to singlehandedly campaign about the human rights abuse that was going on in Stratheden Hospital's IPCU, to patients, and to my son in particular, in February 2012, I am very unhappy that you haven't been so concerned about the safety of psychiatric patients in your regional constituency.  

For years they were using a locked seclusion room with no toilet, no water to drink, light switch outside, to "manage" the patients.  I won an Ombudsman's case against NHS Fife in September 2014, after 30 months of complaining.  Scottish Government awarded £4.4 million to NHS Fife to build a new IPCU.  My son and I got nothing in the way of compensation for the abuse.  Although attempts were made to blame me for it all.

For your information, I will be standing as an independent candidate at the next Scottish parliamentary elections, May 2016, in NE Fife and in the Mid-Scotland and Fife region.  So as to have a voice in parliament for people who have been forcibly and dehumanisingly treated in psychiatric settings, for unwaged carers and for parity of esteem between physical and mental health services.

I am copying my own MSP Rod Campbell and Dr Richard Simpson MSP into this Email.  Mr Campbell has taken an interest in my case, has written letters on my behalf and met with me.  He has visited Stratheden Hospital on a number of occasions and he has listened to what I have had to say.  Which is much more than can be said about you and some of the other regional MSPs.  Apart from Dr Simpson MSP who has spoken out in parliament on mental health matters for many years and will unfortunately be retiring next year.  I am sorry to see him go."


Ms Smith responded, saying:

"Thank you for your email.

I am sorry you believe that I have been inactive on psychiatric care issues which, is not, in fact, at all accurate. However, I am very happy to acknowledge that my involvement has not been at Stratheden Hospital."

This response from Ms Smith I found to be both patronising and dismissive so I replied:

"Ms Smith thank you for responding.

I am not sure why you are "very happy" to acknowledge your lack of involvement at Stratheden Hospital.  That is nothing to be proud or happy about.  In my opinion.  I think it demonstrates arrogance and a patronising attitude.

The point I made was about Stratheden which is in your regional area.  Decades of psychiatric abuse.  Nothing for anyone to be proud of.  Particularly if you have been a public servant as long as you have, since 2007.  

I notice that you have responsibility within your party for Education and Lifelong Learning.  I suggest therefore that you get up to speed about ALL the psychiatric and mental health settings in the area for which you are an MSP.  For the sake of patients and their carers.

My professional and experiential background is community work, for over 30yrs.  In a variety of settings.  Having been born and raised in Perth, a pupil at Perth Academy in the 1960's, like my mother and father before me.  Qualifications in Community Education and FE Lecturing, care subjects.  I was always a grassroots development worker, in South Lanarkshire, Fife and Perth workplaces.

In my opinion, a person like me who has experienced grassroots activism, living on a low income and living in a council house scheme, would be well suited for standing as a regional MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife.  For after all there are many more people now on the breadline especially now with the Tories in power, pushing austerity.  I voted for independence at the Referendum and want to see home rule because I think it would be fairer for Scotland.  Rather than getting the worst of it from a government which takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

My father worked in London, as a sci-fi writer with the Daily Express, 1956-69, died there in 1986.  I like the capital but it is far removed from our Scottish way of life.  We are a nation of storytellers, singers, creatives, entrepreneurs and thinkers outside of the box.  For too long we have played second fiddle.  Which is OK for a time. 

Regards, Chrys"

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

"your proposal ... is too distant" says Dr Miller re Science Fiction/Medical Humanities call for papers

Dr Miller bio page Glasgow Uni
I got a response today 14 July 2015 from Dr Gavin Miller, Glasgow University, regarding my question:

Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities - call for papers: "Will you accept a narrative style of prose?" 

"Dear Chrys
Thanks for getting in touch. My feeling is that your proposal – though interesting in itself – is too distant from the interests of the call, which is focussed more toward analysis  of cultural representations, be they science fiction proper, or science fictional elements in medical culture.
Best wishes

I thanked Dr Miller and said that, regardless of his advice, "maybe someone else who is judging may think my writing is of worth, to be published in the journal".  

I will consider submitting a paper.  Closing date 1 March 2016.  Giving it my best shot, a narrative style but with analysis of cultural representations and referring to my father's science fiction writing.  It will be a challenge to enjoy, as much about the process as the outcome.  Whether it is accepted or rejected. 


In responding to Dr Miller I remembered that we had previous interactions through my attendance at the RD Laing conference October 2014 which he chaired part of, when I wrote a critical blog post about my experience at the event:

encountering RD Laing at the Glasgow University event on 10 October 2014

"I saw and heard him (RD Laing) but not in the lecturing and academic posturing, the talking down to us and the shooshing, the tales of drunkenness and of buildings, the history and factual information, and of books to sell. ..." 

"I saw something of him in the personhood of a man I know, a professor and researcher, who got alongside the women and mothers at this event, listening to us and being with us.  I noticed it when first entering the refreshment room how he was in conversation with a woman that was more of a being with her.  Listening. ..."

"I also saw something of him in the presentation from the last speaker whose philosophy is similar to mine (we're facebook friends) and who told stories of the Philadelphia Association communities.  The legacy of RD Laing.  He spoke in the voices of the people who had been mad and were helped in the PA community, by being there and having people go with them through the madness. 

It's a small world.

the dominance of biological psychiatry in Dundee: pushing ECT on female patients; polypharmacy; NMD - going backwards not forwards

Here is an Email I've just sent to psychiatrists and nurse lecturers in Dundee, 14 July 2015:

Strapline: the dominance of biological psychiatry in Dundee: pushing ECT on female patients; polypharmacy; NMD - going backwards not forwards

ACING page of Dundee Advanced Interventions Service website

"Dear Psychiatrists and Nurse Lecturers in Dundee

I am writing to you with my concerns about the dominance of biological psychiatry in Dundee which results in the pushing of ECT on to patients, particularly women.  The polypharmacy used in Carseview Centre to "manage" the patients and the rooms set aside in Ward One for NMD or brain surgery for mental illness.  (I am continually being scapegoated, excluded from stakeholder groups for not toeing the line and doing what I'm told so have to agitate from the outside)

I know that female patients are being pressurised to have ECT when in Carseview as if it was the best thing since sliced bread.  I know this because I've heard it from the patients and from the nurses who say they would have it if mentally unwell (huh I don't believe it).  It makes me very angry to hear this because I believe, along with the feminist academic Bonnie Burstow, Ontario, Canada, that ECT is the "gentleman's way to batter women".  Strong words but with truth in them.  I speak out from experience, having avoided ECT in 1978, Hartwoodhill, by running out of the ward in my pyjamas, supported by my husband.  Female patients were queuing up for it back then, asking for it.  By 1984 there wasn't the same push for ECT.  Although in Carseview and maybe Tayside the push is still there.  ECT which causes memory loss and brain cell damage, like a knock on the head, new pain for old.

As you will be aware, I have a page on my main blog devoted to Dr Christmas's MD NMD thesis where I am slowly but surely working my way through the 421 or so pages with a critical and opposite viewpoint.  That ECT/NMD does not "save" lives and that psychiatrists are not gods.  (I lump shock treatment and brain surgery together because they are inter-related, brain focused)  Death is inevitable and psychiatry hasn't managed to halt the dying process even if some psychiatrists are deluded into thinking they have the power over life and death. 

I am very annoyed at the cocktails of psychiatric drugs used in Carseview on patients, in the IPCU and in the other wards.  I met twice with Dr Gupta to challenge this way of working and he said that their use of polypharmacy was "historical".  In other words they have always done it that way, I suppose he meant.  The psychiatrists continually over-prescribe psychotropic drugs to vulnerable mental patients.  If they have a side effect with one drug then they give the patient another drug for the side effect which in turn produces more side effects.  Soon the patient is disabled and asking for a depot injection because they can't manage the proliferation of pills they are told to swallow.  It's disgraceful and makes me very angry, and upset, to hear people having to be injected with drugs.  Being disabled by the system.  For no good reason.

If the drugs don't work then the drugs don't work, to alleviate mental distress or side effects from other drugs.  Stop pushing drugs onto patients and disabling them, which for some people, if they don't take away the anguish, makes them desperate enough to ask for brain surgery to relieve the suffering.  It's all about the pain but doing more damage to the person, invading their body and brain, cannot be the best way of doing things.  It's a downward spiral for some people towards ever more invasive treatment which is risky and irreversible.  Why should some people have to bear the brunt of a failed drug paradigm?  The mantra of mental illness used as a smokescreen to cover the fact that the drugs don't work.

I've always known the game was a bogey, that mental illness was a psychiatric construct to cover the failures in the paradigm.  Because of the way that my mother was treated in Murray Royal Hospital in the 1950's and 1960's.  She got the same treatment as everyone else.  Forced ECT, many courses of it, and no doubt also Chlorpromazine which came in around 1952, the year I was born.  Which meant my mother always resisted going into the mental hospital.  The family were distressed at having to send her there because there were no other options available.  And the same is still true.  Biological psychiatry, forced drug treatment or nothing, if you experience altered mind states, psychoses, due to the pain of life.  In 60yrs of psychotropic drugs we are no further forward, in fact have gone backwards if having to yet again resort to fiddling in the brains of mentally distressed people. 

I escaped lifelong mental illness prognoses by not believing a word of it even if the disorder label (schizoaffective) still sits in my notes to mark me out, to stigmatise and discriminate against me.  I escaped mental illness 3 times and it was easier back in 1978 and 1984 to leave psychiatry behind.  I was even helped by a community psychiatrist who came to my house in 1985, Rigside, Lanarkshire, supporting me in my plans to taper the Chlorpromazine and be off it within the year.  Because I was determined to do it, had done it after the earlier puerperal psychosis.  But in 2002 I was eventually made to take a drug cocktail of Risperidone, Venlafaxine and Lithium.  There was coercion because of my lack of agency due to antipsychotics being forced on to me in Lomond Ward, Stratheden, the week I was a mental patient in around March 2002.  A 72hr detention because I was resistant.  They forced me and took away my agency.  It took me around 2yrs to get back the strength to taper and make a full recovery.

Prof Ian Reid (I called him the king of ECT) used to say to me that my family was "different", in terms of my recovery and others in my family recovering from mental illness.  But I think that's a cop out, as if the exception proves the rule or "the exception confirms the rule in cases not excepted".  I maintain that my recovery in 2004 was due to the fact that I didn't believe in mental illness and got off the drugs under my own steam.  Because they were disabling me.  I have a 6in metal plate in my right fibula because of Venlafaxine, being on maximum doses in my 50's, causing bone loss.  That drug also caused me suicidal impulse, I swallowed a bottle of them at one point and was rushed to Ninewells in an ambulance on oxygen.  I had never before in my life been suicidal, or since.  A very scary side effect.  I hold psychiatry responsible for not alerting me to the dangers of this antidepressant. prior to being prescribed them.

It is way beyond time that we looked for alternative ways of working with people in mental distress that doesn't just mean forcing drugs into them, prolifically, using nurses to do the business at the sharp edge.  Nurses are people too and should be trained in a range of skills so as to engage with patients in distress, to have time to listen and to be with the person/patient, rather than just be enforcers of drugs.  That is demeaning to the nursing profession in psychiatric settings.  They, along with the people they treat, are being dehumanised in the process.  It is not fair on them or on us, the people accessing psychiatric inpatient treatment and the carers, family members, having to pick up the pieces.

I want to see Dundee psychiatrists and nurse lecturers consider ways in which they/you might start to shift the paradigm, and the focus, away from drugs and towards a range of therapies so that there is no recourse to either ECT or NMD. Reducing the "unmet need" by tackling the issue at the root rather than at the stem or fruit.  It's a matter of getting your heads together and redesigning the process, involving critical voices and sceptics, so as to be ahead of the game and focusing on the whole person not just their brain.

I hope this helps in changing the discourse or at the very least brings some light into the discussions.
Yours faithfully,


'More Harm Than Good: Confronting the Psychiatric Medication Epidemic' Conference 18 September 2015 London:


"The Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry invites you to join global leaders in the critical psychiatry movement for a one-day conference which will address an urgent public health issue: the iatrogenic harm caused by the over-prescription of psychiatric medications. 

There is clear evidence that these drugs cause more harm than good over the long term, and can damage patients and even shorten their lives. Yet why are these medications so popular? What harms are they causing? What can be done to address the problem."


blog post 20 April 2015: Dear Prof Matthews: why are female patients in Carseview Centre Dundee being put under pressure to have ECT? (no response from the Professor, yet)

blog post 6 September 2014: Tayside Carers Support Project (Support in Mind Scotland) Newsletter with ECT piece

my comment: "Electroconvulsive Therapy is a contentious treatment because it consists of an electric shock to the brain, performed under anaesthetic, causing a fit to the person, and doctors still don't know how it works.  And it doesn't cure anything, rather it causes short term memory loss and also longer term memory loss for some people."

blog post 1 September 2014: Dear Support in Mind Scotland please present a balanced view of ECT and try not to be patronising 

Monday, 13 July 2015

Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities - call for papers: "Will you accept a narrative style of prose?"

I got an Email this morning, as usual on a Monday, the weekly digest of the Centre for Medical Humanities, had a quick skim through and this item caught my interest: Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities (CfP, Journal Issue – BMJ Medical Humanities, 1 March 2016):

"We invite papers of broad interest to an international readership of medical humanities scholars and practising clinicians on the topic ‘Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities’."

I thought yes this is something I would enjoy writing about.

"If you would like to discuss any aspect of your submission, including possible topics, or the possibility of presenting your work under the auspices of the Wellcome Trust funded project ‘Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities’, please contact the Guest Editor in the first instance: Dr Gavin Miller (gavin.miller@glasgow.ac.uk)"


So I Emailed Dr Miller in the first instance, copying in Deborah Kirklin, editor of the BMJ journal Medical Humanities:

"Dear Gavin

I am writing to ask about the call for papers on the theme of 'Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities' which has just come through my Email box, with your name as the contact.

The topic caught my interest, as I'm a mental health critical writer and daughter of a science fiction writer.  My father Willie Patterson was the author of 'Jeff Hawke', a sci-fi comic strip in the Daily Express from around 1956 to 1969.  His work has been re-published twice by Titan Books although he died in October 1986, in London:


Here is a blog post I wrote remembering my dad which includes a eulogy from illustrator Sydney Jordan in the 1987 Titan Books publication 'Counsel for the Defence':


I would like to submit something with a narrative theme, telling a story as to why I've never believed in "mental illness" and have survived psychoses and psychiatric treatment on 3 separate occasions in life, because of scepticism since childhood.  There is much research and talk about "family history of" and genetic reasoning in mental health matters yet the fact my father was a successful sci-fi storyteller is undoubtedly the reason for my writing abilities and my unbelief in the mantra of mental illness.  The irony of inherited talent and thinking outside the box giving a person the strength to be a resistance fighter in mental health matters.  You couldn't make it up.

My father had mental health issues latterly or so it was claimed, the reason as to why his contract with the Daily Express was terminated in 1969.  He stayed down in London from then until his death.  My mother told a different story and we stayed in our home town of Perth, Scotland.  My mother had experienced periodic nervous breakdowns in the 1950's and 1960's resulting in a schizophrenia label.  Psychoses is normal in my family and we have all experienced altered mind states at different times, in reaction to different stimulii, ending in forced psychiatric treatment.  Eight of us over 3 generations.  From my parents to my 2 younger sisters, to my 3 sons and me.  In solidarity. 

I have spent nearly 50yrs supporting family members in and out of psychiatric settings but it's only since 2008 that I got involved in mental health activism, having been a grassroots community development worker since 1980.  I now call myself a psychiatric survivor and plan to stand as an independent candidate at the next Scottish parliamentary elections in 2016, in NE Fife where I live and regionally in Mid-Scotland and Fife.  I am doing it so as to have a voice inside parliament rather than just being a spectator.

The question I want to ask you: is it worthwhile my submitting a paper in response to this Call?  Will you accept a narrative style of prose which also will challenge norms and critique biological psychiatry?  I do this in my blog writing and campaigning anyway.  But I would appreciate the challenge of submitting something to a journal which may add to the discourse and at the same time be useful in making sense of madness and science fiction.  The unproven aspect of psychiatry.  It's all in the mind sort of a thing.

I look forward to hearing your response and will likely put this Email in a blog post for others to see.  As a record of my correspondence and for the sake of transparency.

Yours sincerely,

Chrys Muirhead (Mrs)

cc Deborah Kirklin"


1 May 2015 blog post: 'remembering my father Willie Patterson: author of sci-fi strip Jeff Hawke; one in a million; 1986 dedication Titan Books'

June 1986 Titan Books (my copy)
April 1987 Titan Books (my copy)

I uploaded my dad's photo to the Wikipedia Jeff Hawke page