Saturday, 30 September 2017

Surviving Psychosis/Psychiatry teaching 8May17 Mental Health & Wellbeing Unit Glasgow

I was invited by Professor Andrew Gumley to teach on the Psychosis module, 2nd year Clinical Psychology Doctorate (DClinPsy) at the Mental Health and Wellbeing Unit, University of Glasgow, 8 May 2017, for which I received an honorarium and travel expenses.

Here is a link to my presentation, delivered from 10am to 4pm with an hour for lunch:

Surviving Psychosis/Psychiatry: Resilience, Resistance, Recovery; Rescue, Respite, Risk, Renewal



I had expected to be involved in module planning and in co-writing papers but this never happened.  It's disappointing but I'm not surprised.  I first attended a Service User Research Group meeting with Dr Ross White and Prof Andrew Gumley in the MH & Wellbeing unit, 9 September 2009, over 8 years ago, and this came to nothing.  Wasn't invited back or included in any research.  In a sense I've got used to being excluded although it doesn't stop me speaking out and expecting at some point that my voice will be heard, respected and included.  I'm not worth less.

"Walking from Haugh Park, Cupar, to the Garden Centre, by River Eden, reflecting on my preparation for Psychosis module teaching, 8 May 2017, to trainees on the Clinical Psychology Doctorate programme, Mental Health & Wellbeing Unit, University of Glasgow, Gartnavel Hospital: 

Topics of Resilience, Resistance, Recovery, Rescue, Respite, Risk, Renewal. I was invited to teach, facilitate learning, from the lived experience or survivor perspective. My qualifications include postgraduate reflective practitioner awards in Community Education and Teaching in Further Education, Care subjects."


"Speaking out about my attempts to be meaningfully involved since September 2009 on the DClinPsy (Doctorate in Clinical Psychology) programme, University of Glasgow, based in the Mental Health & Wellbeing Unit, Gartnavel Hospital. About feeling marginalised."

"Two short talks to camera after speaking out in front of the Mental Health and Wellbeing unit, University of Glasgow, Gartnavel Hospital. Talking about expectation and hopes, resilience and worth. 

"I think everyone should be treated the same. I'm not worth less because I'm stronger or more resilient. It just means I'm still here."

Thursday, 28 September 2017

groupthink; reaching a consensus; dysfunctional decision-making outcomes

Yesterday I received an Email from an academic which seemed to be, yet again, promoting "groupthink", a misrepresentation of groupwork, with the aim of silencing independent, survivor voices.

"Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences." Wikipedia

Here is what the senior academic said:

"I don’t want the group to feel rushed, but that we can take the time we need. If the group collectively feel that we can briefer then we will do what the group needs." (bolding is mine)

The "group" mentioned consists of academics, mental health survivors and carers.  I've been a member of this group, since 2011, having left for a spell due to feeling marginalised and fodder for research.

In my experience of this group it's the academics who dominate the discourse and silence voices at will.  It happened at a meeting this week.  The survivor voices were shut down.  They can't seem to help but close conversations and redirect.  It's the culture and learned behaviour.  I think they also teach this, practise it, in their relationships with others, which is concerning and one of the reasons as to why I've come back into this group and will persist with speaking out independently.

In my response to this academic I said:

"it's about the person in the group. About keeping everyone onboard.

Think about ways of involving each of us as an individual. We each have different strengths and abilities. .."


"The gist of my argument was about being accommodating to the person before the group."

To which the academic responded:

"I see my approach to this as attempting to bring along every individual who is a member ..., giving them the opportunity to engage with the curriculum."


I am still concerned that Clinical Psychologists (CPs) in Scotland may be more concerned about the group than about the person.  That was my experience in Fife, from 2003 until 2012, engaging with NHS Fife CPs, as a patient, a carer, a colleague.  They didn't appear to see me as an equal.  Rather it felt that in their eyes I was "less than".

That's a problem which requires attention, in my opinion.  


Groupthink by Irving L Janis, 1971

"The main principle of groupthink, which I offer in the spirit of Parkinson's Law, is this: The more amiability and esprit de corps there is among the members of a policy-making ingroup, the greater the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions directed against outgroups."

The role of prescribed persons? CabSec for Health giggles & defers to DG Paul Gray

The role of prescribed persons from omphalos on Vimeo.

"Health and Sport Committee, Scottish Parliament, 26 September 2017: NHS Governance

Miles Briggs, MSP, asked this question of the Cabinet Secretary for Health and the Director General for NHS Scotland:

"I wondered if you could outline to the committee your role as a Prescribed Person within the Public Disclosure Act"

Definition of Prescribed Persons(

"Prescribed persons, as prescribed under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, are independent bodies or individuals that can be approached by whistleblowers, where an approach to their employers would not be appropriate."

Full coverage of this parliamentary committee can be watched here:

[Full minutes can also be accessed from this page]

Music credit: "Collapsing time" by Dexter Britain (under common license)"

Sunday, 24 September 2017

my Advance Statement: will request meeting with Psychiatrist to update

My Advance Statement written c2013 in conjunction with a Fife Psychiatrist, now retired:

I plan to update this Statement requesting a Safe House for Psychosis, and will arrange a meeting with a Psychiatrist to discuss.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Switching Antipsychotics by MMH for CME in NHS Scotland

Here is a link to presentation slides for a Continual Medical Education (CME) session 'Switching Antipsychotics' delivered to NHS health board psychiatrists in Scotland last week, by John Donoghue, Clinical Pharmacist, fictional book author and owner of company Medicines in Mental Health Ltd.

On the first slide Mr Donoghue promotes his fictional book 'The Death's Head Chess Club' using the opportunity of a captive audience to rake in more money from his links to big pharma:

Second slide Donoghue pushes his business:

Finally third slide the Clinical Pharmacist sets out his objectives:

I contend that these objectives are not achievable.  Antipsychotics are powerful, toxic chemicals and there are no safety guarantees when it comes to "switching" the drugs.  It's the patient/person who has to "manage" and live with adverse side effects which do occur every day they are on these mind and brain altering drugs.  I know this from personal experience of taking Chlorpromazine and Risperidone, managing to taper and get off the drugs on 3 different occasions, against "medical" advice.

As a psychiatric survivor and carer of family members who have been disabled and abused by coercive psychiatric drug treatment I am disgusted by the profiteering of this "clinical pharmacist".  Science fiction masquerading as "medical (medication) education".

Saturday, 9 September 2017

an appealing protest: speaking out for safe houses at MH & Wellbeing Glasgow 9Sep17

Published on Sep 9, 2017

Travelling with bike on train from Springfield to Glasgow via Edinburgh, to speak out at the Mental Health & Wellbeing unit, Gartnavel, Glasgow. This unit is part of the University of Glasgow and 8 years ago, to the day, I first attended a Service User Research Group in the red brick building where Clinical Psychology is based. 
First segment was filmed in Kelvingrove Park. Other talks were in 10 parts, emphasising my commitment to being meaningfully involved in teaching and facilitating learning on the DClinPsy programme and in research. 
It was a bit of a protest and at the same time an appeal for help and support with my proposed research into Safe haven crisis Houses for psychosis, alternatives to psychiatric inpatient treatment.

Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic, public lecture Cupar, Fife, Scotland, 19 November 2011

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

Thursday, 7 September 2017

On Jeff Hawke: Overlord, by Sydney Jordan and Willie Patterson (1960)

On Jeff Hawke: Overlord, by Sydney Jordan and Willie Patterson (1960)


“Adult” all too often has a different meaning now. But in the very best sense of the term, Jordan and Patterson’s Jeff Hawke was a newspaper science-fiction comic strip for adults. In an age in which fantastical fiction was still largely regarded as brain-rotting pablum for the young, the culturally deprived, and the supposedly congenitally feeble-minded, Jeff Hawke had become, by the turn of the ’60s, a rare and precious example of what the genre might achieve in a popular form designed to appeal to a post-adolescent audience. In the words of Dave Gibbons, it was “one of the best newspaper strips ever published.”

Hawke himself might not, at first, appear to be anything other than a typically British adventure hero from the more dour end of the breed. Though handsome, calm, brave, commanding, and restrained, Hawke’s hardly what might be seen as a charismatic character in the terms of today’s culture. His sense of humour is gentle and slight when it’s present at all, with a great deal of the comedy in his adventures coming from the characters that he plays straight man to. His obvious competence never once threatens to tip over into the darkness and machismo of a my-phasers-against-the-universe protagonist. Indeed, the absence of the slightest trace of the anti-hero about him leaves Hawke appearing initially to be nothing more compelling than a one-dimensional man of the officer class, there on the page to be admirably, comfortingly decent and day-winning.

But it’s the very absence of the easy and over-familiar markers of heroism that make Hawke such a quietly remarkable lead. In Overlord, for example, which played out over 115 days in the pages of The Daily Express in 1960, he first appears as an expert called in to investigate the appearance of an alien spacecraft that has crashed somewhere in North Africa. In a near-future marked by the likes of beautifully-envisaged ram-jets and flying-sauceresque hovercraft, Hawke liaises with government scientists and military big-wigs in order to take charge of the search effort. It’s not until the thirteenth daily chapter in the sequence that his most distinctive qualities become subtly emphasised. Having discovered not one but two alien craft in “the Egyptian desert,” Hawke’s methodical attempts at what we’d now call first contact reveal that a form of execution is about to occur. A gigantic beetle-like creature has apparently been condemned “in accordance with High Intergalactic Law,” and a relatively small off-world craft has arrived to carry out the sentence. Hawke’s response is deliberate, smart-minded, and entirely without teeth-gritting or speechifying:

“Whoever you may be, understand this! There will be no ‘execution’ on the sovereign territory of Earth!”

Though he undemonstratively draws his gun, it’s quite obviously done in a way that’s as lacking in Hollywood manliness as could be possible. To Hawke, as it soon becomes plain to the neophyte reader, violence is a strategy of the very last resort, and it’s in that adamantine conviction that the character’s untypical and inspiring qualities as a lead become clear. Patterson’s stories weren’t constructed to quickly burn through more cerebral solutions to overwhelmingly threatening dangers while at the same time cranking up the reader’s longing for a laser beam or a good and strong right hook to solve the problems. Quite the opposite was true. When Marines arrive on the scene in response to a loss of communications with Hawke’s team, a show of force results only in the destruction of its commander’s weapons along with, it appears, a significant proportion of his good health. For Jeff Hawke was a science-fiction strip designed to emphasise if not pacifism, then the most principled of restraint matched with the most rigorous of thought. And for all that Hawke might seem to the casual glance to be an entirely familiar fighting lead, he was actually the exact opposite to the breed. In that, he was the rarest of science-fiction types; the diplomat as hero, the peace-maker as protagonist, the man of ideals and science who really would rather rely upon his conscience and his mind before reaching for a conveniently big gun.

Patterson and Jordan could often appear to be engaged in a campaign against the broad strokes and dense-headed assumptions of so much pulp sci-fi. Jeff Hawke was saturated with the conventions that characterised so much of the pop science fiction of the period, and yet those traditions were constantly being reframed and reinvigorated. The flying saucers in Overlord are everyday terrestrial hovercraft, the other-worldly executioner nothing more than a machine programmed to spout bureaucratic legaleese. Most tellingly, the huge beetle that, at first glance, appears to be nothing more than the terrifying Other is revealed to be neither enemy not potential ally, but an “intelligent” creature “impatient” to be killed because it has “the mentality of a pawn in a chess game.” At each step of the plot, the reader’s expectations are smartly subverted. This is true to the point at which Hawke is compelled by the evidence to reluctantly leave the condemned alien to its fate, a twist of the plot which surely no-one then, as now, could have anticipated. This is authorial gameplaying of the highest level, and it comes with a complete absence of either smugness or the cold-hearted knowingness than tends to accompany comics meta. “Come on Jeff — there’s nothing we can do…” calls Hawke’s assistant, Mac, to his boss, and even now, the idea that there really is nothing that the heroic lead can do, and that the only option really is to fly away and let such unpleasantness occur, grinds thought-provokingly against genre expectations.

For a strip that’s so deliberately undemonstrative, that’s so purposefully designed to side-step the barnstorming clich├ęs of space opera, it’s remarkable how many images there are on the page that still catch the eye and burn their way into the memory. The world of Overlord is quite clearly that of 1960 in most of its broad strokes and its fine detail too. Yet it’s also a time of the most incredible and yet apparently taken-for-granted super-science. Sydney Jordan had the remarkable ability to present the most futuristic of technology as an everyday fact of life while also accentuating its strange beauty in contrast to the everyday. A jet decades ahead of its time is shown being raised to the deck of HMS Centaur using technology that would’ve been in operation in World War Two, while soldiers looking little different to those who might have been serving in Britain’s turn-of-the-decade conscript army engage startlingly alien intruders. It’s hard not to believe that Jordan was somehow capturing the reality of 1960 as it might have been seen if only the reader could have just glimpsed things from the right angle.

As such, there’s a dozen and more such eye-catching panels in the sixteen daily chapters that mark just the opening act of Overlord alone. The tiny spacemen walking on a huge satellite in Earth orbit, Hawke’s ramjet landing on an aircraft carrier while dawn rises in the background, the interruption of the stand-off between alien and otherworldly technology caused by Hawke’s colleague Laura receiving a telepathic message; Jordan consistently placed his characters into situations that were simultaneously outlandish and yet also entirely believable. To have had Hawke behaving as anything other than his thoughtful and somewhat buttoned-up self in such a world would’ve reduced the strip to parody. For Jordan’s art, as with Patterson’s scripts, works against the very idea of the indomitable hero. Theirs is a version of reality which carries such a sense of verisimilitude that a suggestion that conflict can be defeated with a single, desperate act of brute blokeishness would inevitably appear out of place. It’s not that Hawke and his colleagues of the strip’s golden age weren’t often shown being brave and ingenious, but it is that their world, like ours, is anything other than a Saturday-morning picture show romp.

In the eighteenth episode of Overlord, Hawke, his team, and the Marine task-force abandon the beetle-alien to its lamentable fate and head northwards. It wants to die, its would-be killer is too powerful to stop, and there simply is no option but to retreat. Hawke himself is appalled at what’s going to occur, but the narrative doesn’t focus in an obvious manner on either his frustration or the killing itself. In what might initially seem a counter-intuitive choice on the part of Patterson and Jordan, the small fleet of hovercraft travel fifty miles northwards before a colossal explosion reminiscent of an atomic bomb is shown in the far distance. Today’s storytelling orthodoxy would insist that the reader be shown the execution or at least Hawke’s response to seeing it. In 2012, the sentimentality and the spectacle of the moment would most probably be what such a scene would be milked for. At the very least, we might be given a scene that focuses upon nothing but the excesses of Hawke’s angsty despair or be shown the hovercraft racing desperately to escape from the blast radius.

But Patterson and Jordan were writing for an audience of adults, and their focus wasn’t upon spectacle but story. In showing the human cast’s safe journey away from the killing field, they create a sense of numbed anticipation and allow the audience to feel what a terrible thing it is that’s going to happen. Each mile that the hovercraft cover is a mile further away from an abandoned, hopeless sentient being that is about to be slaughtered. The point here isn’t the blood and terror of the moment but the fundamental horror of an unavoidable loss of life. And when the sky’s shown blackening in response to the terrible white light of the slaughter, the security that Hawke and his fellows inhabit only emphasises the terrible fate of the creature they were compelled to leave behind. This, Patterson and Jordan appear to be stating, is how important and how catastrophic every single unnecessary loss of life is.

“We should have prevented that… the insect creature should have lived...” says Hawke as the flash of the explosion fades, and it suddenly becomes obvious. For it’s impossible to name more than just a few mass-market comics or strips today that are as passionately humane, as fundamentally concerned with common decency, as Jeff Hawke was some half-a-century and more ago.

We might have expected better of the future."


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


chemical restraint in mental health: research seminar @eimearmuirc @AbertayUni

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Safe [haven crisis] Houses for Psychosis research & development

my drawing MH Strategy meeting Edinburgh 14Sep16
I should have been starting a PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Edinburgh this month, to research Safe haven crisis Houses in the UK and abroad.  Unfortunately it didn't work out.  Very disappointing and disheartening, at the time.  It felt like I was being set up to fail, undermined and unsupported.
MH Strategy Glasgow 13Sep16

I've put the PhD idea on the back burner for just now but I'm still keen on doing action research into safe house alternatives to psychiatric inpatient treatment.  This will require the backing of a team, can't do it on my own or I would.

I hope that help will be forthcoming.  I'm not confident.  The years of campaigning and whistleblowing have been isolating.  Speaking out about psychiatric abuse as an unwaged Carer has been costly, both financially and relationally. 

Regardless of the marginalisation I've experienced since 2008 when first getting involved in mental health matters, I am focused on promoting, researching and developing Safe Houses for Psychosis in Scotland for as long as I can.  A legacy for my family.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Stop calling me Resilient ...

Extramural Activity: I Am Not Resilient

Life in Belfast as represented on its walls - murals, graffiti, street art