Monday, 28 December 2015

Electro-Convulsive Therapy: W Hunter Watson, December 2015

I received this Email from Hunter Watson, human rights campaigner, sent at 10.45pm last night, copied in to a host of MSPs and others, including psychiatric survivor activists and campaigners:

Strapline: Ireland bans involuntary ECT
 
"Hi All,
       On Christmas day, the President of the Irish Republic signed the Mental Health Amendment. This has the effect of outlawing compulsory ECT in the Irish Republic. In the attached paper I provide reasons why compulsory ECT in Scotland is another matter which should be critically examined during the review of the 2003 Mental Health Act which is about to begin.
         My best wishes to everyone for 2016,
                                                             Hunter Watson"
 
 
 

------------------------------

 


Saturday, 26 December 2015

'Whistle blower retires with her career in Scotland ruined' @heraldscotland 26Dec15

'Whistle blower retires with her career in Scotland ruined' Herald Scotland, 26 December 2015




"A whistle-blowing doctor who was at the centre of a gagging row, has retired after deciding her career in Scotland is beyond repair. 

Dr Jane Hamilton now advises any doctor thinking of blowing the whistle in Scotland to think very hard before doing so as it has ruined her professional life. 

The consultant perinatal psychiatrist has been working in Hull where her specialist expertise has been warmly welcomed. But her family is settled north of the border and she has finally found the weekly commute too demanding.

However she believes she is now seen as a trouble-maker within the NHS in Scotland. Jobs she has applied for have been re-advertised shortly afterwards. 

“It would appear they would rather have nobody than have me,” she said. 

She and her family had moved north in 2007 because Dr Hamilton had been appointed to the Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) at St John's Hospital in Livingston. Her national reputation in the care of mothers with severe psychiatric problems had been recognised when she was asked to help draw up the UK guidelines before her appointment in Scotland. 

By the end of 2007 she raised concerns over how the unit was being run and shortly afterwards warned in writing that patients could die. Two women patients subsequently took their own lives and the family of one is now suing the health board for medical negligence. 

The unit continues to make headlines. Earlier this month there were reports of a vulnerable mother leaving her baby in the unit, before getting out and being hit by two different vehicles, in what some believe was a suicide attempt. 

In June Erin Sutherland pled guilty to culpable homicide after she smothered her 10 month old baby Chloe. 

Her doctor sought specialist help when Chloe was eight-months old, but support was not offered by the MBU. The suggestion made in court that post-natal depression was not deemed to be a problem after six months, was subsequently challenged by Dr Hamilton. 

After raising concerns Dr Hamilton was off with stress related illness, then worked elsewhere but wasn’t allowed to return to the unit, officially leaving NHS Lothian earlier this year. 

The health board and Scottish Government have always insisted her concerns were thoroughly and independently investigated and were unfounded. However sources suggested otherwise. 

A more recent investigation by NHS Lothian, which is not to be published despite appeals, is understood to have found no fault with Dr Hamilton’s professional abilities nor did it criticise her actions. 

In the aftermath of the controversy over an alleged attempt by NHS Lothian to gag her in a compromise agreement for her to leave, something the health board has always vehemently denied, ministers effectively outlawed the future use of any such clauses by public bodies. 

Meanwhile Dr Hamilton has become an active member of the recently founded campaign group A Safe and Accountable People’s NHS in Scotland (ASAP- NHS) , which is calling for the setting up of a genuinely independent NHS regulatory body. 

Dr Hamilton said: “I didn’t want my career to end like this, but it is clear to me my reputation has been irreparably damaged." 

She doesn’t believe her concerns were ever properly investigated, and added: “Of course health employees should blow the whistle, but should realise they may end up paying a very heavy price.” 

Neil Findlay Labour MSP for Lothian, said:“Jane Hamilton’s case is shameful. Here we have a women with an unblemished career who has been victimised and effectively blacklisted from getting a job in Scotland for the ‘crime’ of raising concerns about patient safety and poor practices in what should be a national centre of excellence.” 

He said people who want to make our health care better should not be treated this way. 

But a Scottish Government spokeswoman said whistle-blowers were being protected. Health boards had to ensure it was safe for staff to speak about any concerns, particularly patient safety, which would be investigated.

She said there was the National Confidential Alert Line, and non-executive Whistleblowing Champions were being introduced in each health board 

Ministers were also committed to establishing an Independent National Whistleblowing Officer, to provide an independent and external review on the handling of whistleblowing cases in NHS Scotland."

------------------

My comment on Herald article:

"Some of us whistleblowers never even got a career or a big pension, having had to rescue ourselves and family members out of psychiatry, on occasion over a lifetime. Blaming mothers for a failed system and expecting us to pick up the pieces after psychiatric abuse. And for our efforts are bullied and badmouthed, excluded and sent packing. It has to be said.

My thoughts are with the unwaged carers and mothers, of mental health service users and psychiatric survivors. Taking the strain. Feeling the pain. Resisting the pressure. In defiance.
"


Friday, 25 December 2015

some fondly remembered snapshots at Christmas


RIP Gypsy

Foxy in garden

St Andrews West Sands

Edinburgh Princes Street
Kirkcaldy Esplanade slipway
Dundee Caird Hall
Black Watch Museum visit, view of North Inch Perth
daisies out front garden
lavender out back garden















London Carers UK Summit 26 November
Carers in solidarity, Carers UK Summit Canary Wharf
Glasgow 18 November at event in Trades Hall

Thursday, 24 December 2015

the isolation and cost of caring and campaigning; it ain't over till it's over ...


St Andrews, Fife, 22Dec15

I wanted to write something about the cost of being an unwaged carer and at the same time having to campaign against psychiatric abuse.  The isolation of taking a stand, exposing the truth and parts of yourself for the sake of justice.  Alienating friends and family in the cause.  Being blamed in notes and bullied by "professionals".  Particularly poignant at this time of the year when consumerism reigns and we are exhorted to be jolly and spend, spend, spend.

My thoughts are with other carers, psychiatric survivors and activists who are continuing the fight for justice in mental health matters.  It can be a lonely road even if in solidarity with others.  Any victories are slight in comparison to the wounds inflicted.  The grudging one-line apology I received from NHS Fife in 2014 after "winning" an Ombudsman complaint against the health board was like an insult, considering their failure to protect vulnerable patients in Stratheden Hospital.  Over decades.

I ran out of steam last summer.  Came to a dead end.  Had to pick myself up and take charge of my own physical and mental health.  Self management so as to survive.  Dealing with the anger felt at the injustice of a system which rewards the abusers and punishes the whistleblowers.  Or so it seemed.  

I went on a therapeutic journey, supported by a few, friends and family, by way of swimming pools and renewed craft activities, which are still ongoing.  Engaging with people and feeling human again.  Taking risks.  Crying and laughing.  Exploring places and options.  Not acting my age.  Realising that life wasn't over even though a pensioner.  Revisiting youth and middle age, in stories and in mind.  Getting fit.  Planning for the future.

-------------------------




Apology received from Fife Council re extractor fan repair delay via @RCampbellMSP

On Sunday I received an Email from my MSP Roderick Campbell that contained a forwarded Email apology from Fife Council, regarding the delay in responding to our bathroom extractor fan breakdown.  

It was written by the "Team Manager (Electrical) Maintenance, Mechanical & Electrical Building Services" [font colour green, italic, in Email]

Here is an excerpt:

"I would like to apologise for the time taken to complete this repair. Due to resource issues at the time (which have now been resolved) this job took building services longer than it normally would to complete this repair."

Mr Campbell had initially written to the Chief Executive of Fife Council, Steve Grimmond, detailing 3 issues which I had raised with him: extractor fan; Fife Council signage eg Fluthers carpark (which I notice has been removed); bus stops Springfield.  Copying in Cllr Karen Marjoram.  

I thanked my MSP in response, by Email. 

 

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Response @RCampbellMSP 11Dec15: Fife Sport & Leisure Trust; Springfield bus stops; library closures

Here is the content of an Email received by my MSP Roderick Campbell on 11 December, in response to a range of issues I had highlighted in a letter Email to Mr Campbell on 23 November, copied in to Cllr Karen Marjoram:

"Dear Chrys,

Thank-you for your email, in which you have highlighted a number of concerns, which I have carefully noted.  My office has been extremely busy since the delivery of my annual report, and I apologise for my delay in responding to you.

Firstly, I am sorry to hear about the problems that you have had in reporting a faulty fan in your bathroom, to Fife Council.  I have written to the Council on the matter.  I have also written to the Council regarding signage in Fife, as well as about the condition of bus stops, and bus timetables, in Springfield.  For good order, I am raising the issue with Karen Marjoram, however. 

Furthermore, I have noted your comments about Fife Sports and Leisure Trust.  I have highlighted your concerns to the Trust, and have welcomed their comments.

Finally, with regard to libraries, I do share your concerns.   You will have noted that, earlier this week, Fife Council has taken what I consider to be the wrong decision, which is to close 16 libraries in Fife.

I hope that I have addressed, at least, some of your concerns.  I will provide you with an update, once I have received responses from the Council, and from Fife Sports and Leisure Trust.

Kind regards,

Roderick Campbell MSP"

--------------------------
Leith Victoria plaque

I replied to this Email, updating Mr Campbell with feedback on the Fife Sport & Leisure Trust and my experiences of swimming in different pools in Fife and elsewhere, including the London Olympic pool in Stratford, the Glasgow Tollcross Commonwealth Pool, the Leith Victoria in Edinburgh and the Perth leisure pool, all very positive.  

However after another negative experience in a Fife pool I made the decision to take out membership of the Dundee Olympia.   [Only £14/mth for over 60's, Mon-Frid daytime, gym and swim with some classes included]  It means I can just enjoy a swim without the hassle of unhappy staff or pools taken over by clubs.  Even if I have to travel on 2 buses to do so.

Since then our bathroom extractor fan has been replaced by a Fife Council electrician.  There may be a reprieve for the libraries: Courier article 17Dec15 'Fife library campaigners given glimmer of hope'.

I have more recently sent another Email to Mr Campbell on behalf of a mother and unwaged carer, an older pensioner than me, who would appreciate a meeting with him to discuss her concerns about a family member with mental health issues who she supports.  I have offered to advocate at the meeting and am still waiting for a response to this request, which I will then pass on to the carer.


job applications update

I have decided to only apply for paid jobs that are mental health focused.  Mainly because I have spent the last 8 years up to my neck in mental health stuff and it would be silly to change direction at this stage.  But mostly because I have spent the last 45 years and more supporting family members in and out of psychiatric treatment.  Into recovery.  Myself included.

The only post I can see at the moment that might suit my capabilities and breadth of experience is this one at the University of Glasgow (website link):

Research Fellow

Reference Number - 011847
Location - Gartnavel Campus
College / Service - COLLEGE OF MVLS
Department - RI HEALTH & WELLBEING
Job Family - Research And Teaching
Position Type -Full Time 
Salary Range - £33,574 - £37,768

Job Purpose
 
To make a leading contribution to the NIHR-HTA funded study EMPOWER (Early Signs Monitoring to Prevent Relapse and PrOmote Wellbeing, Engagement and Recovery).

----------------------------

But I'm not a clinical psychologist.  I don't have a PhD.  I'm not a scientific writer (more sci-fi ...).  I don't understand some of the language written in the job description and I don't approve of some of the words used eg relapse, compliance, adherence, schizophrenia, 

Despite this I still think I could do the job!  So I'm going for it, prepared for rejection. 

Kirkcaldy pool 22Nov15
I've been a community development worker since 1980, managing projects, recruiting volunteers, delivering training, speaking at events and networking with all ages of people.  Nowadays using the internet to engage, write blogs, speak out and campaign.  And I'm a natural leader and action researcher, interested in people, asking questions wherever I happen to be, so as to find out what's going on.  For example recently on a tour of swimming pools, in Fife and elsewhere.  At the same time getting fit and avoiding or withstanding dodgy situations.

It's an online application and I've started filling it in.  Have identified 3 referees, friends and colleagues who are willing to back me up.  I look forward to the challenge of the chase.  There's a CV upload.  And this section which will take a bit of answering: "Please detail, point by point, how you meet the essential criteria?".  Or don't in my case ...

I will likely argue the case for shifting the criteria, to include psychiatric survivor experience.  For I think it makes sense to have a project leader who has been there, swallowed the pills, been subject to the special treatment, got the psychiatric labels, resisted the patriarchy, rebelled inside and eventually made a full recovery by taking charge of their own mental health.  3 times.


----------------------------




send in the clowns?



-----------------------------

Yesterday I sent an Email to a friend and colleague which had "send in the clowns" in the strapline.  And here is a paragraph from it:

"Clowns are ok in the circus.  I saw Coco the clown, aged about 5 or 6, with my dad in a ringside seat at Billy Smart's circus, shook hands with him, and remember it to this day, fondly.  But I'm not happy about the clowning around that goes on in Scotland's mental health world and locally in Fife.  My whole family have been abused by psychiatry so I don't find it funny.  It's deadly serious for me.  My involvement in mental health matters.  It's not a game."

And I ended my correspondence with the phrase "I'm no good at passive resistance".

----------------------------- 

my dad Willie Patterson at our home in Perth

me aged 10, photo taken by my dad






















Friday, 18 December 2015

'So if we like the idea of peer workers, why aren’t we seeing more?' Jun15 paper @SimonSRN

'So if we like the idea of peer workers, why aren’t we seeing more?', authors Jacki Gordon and Simon Bradstreet; published in World Journal of Psychiatry, 2015 June 22; 5(2): 160-166

Having surfaced from over 3 years of campaigning for justice in respect of the human rights abuses in Stratheden Hospital, I have returned to the topic of mental health peer support and the reason I first got meaningfully involved in Scotland's mental health world, setting up Peer Support Fife in Jan08 and my own website to deliver recovery-focused training.

I'm doing this so as to make sense of my journey so far.  And Emailed the Scottish Recovery Network Officer responsible for the Peer Support Working programme, to ask what's been happening with peer worker roles.  Because I'm not aware of any developments.  I received a response and here is the main body of it:

"SRN produced a review of peer working in 2013, see Peer working: a new way of working in mental health | News Archive 2013 for Scottish Government to meet one of their commitments in the last Mental Health Strategy. Peer working has been slowly developing though not as quickly as we would like. We do not routinely collect data on the number of peer working posts and there is no obligation on services to inform us of peer worker development. Our estimate is that there is between 65-70 roles; the majority of which are in the voluntary sector.

In order to try and understand the reasons behind the disappointing pace of development SRN commissioned research which is informing our approach. You can find the report on our website at So if we like the idea of peer workers, why aren’t we seeing more? | Latest News. From my contact with people internationally, and associated research, Scotland is not unique in the low development of paid roles and reasons are similar internationally.

SRN continue to promote and support peer roles as well as provide direct development support to services. This includes:

·        The Peer Learning Network which meets twice a year and continues to grow in numbers;

·        Work with a range of services to support them in the development and implementation of peer worker roles;

·        Providing information, guidance and support to organisations developing and supporting peer volunteer roles;

·        Supporting the delivery of the PDA Mental Health Peer Support in a number of areas and, more recently, by developing further peer support training materials through the Peer2Peer European project more information at  Peer support training course is a European success | Latest News

SRN remain committed to the development and support of peer support roles in mental health and to working with others to make this happen. The resources developed are proving to be essential and valuable to this process."

[Thanks to Lesley for this response]


Wednesday, 16 December 2015

having to look for paid work

Although 63 and an unwaged carer I am having to look for paid work, full-time otherwise it wouldn't be worth it financially.  I'd prefer to keep doing voluntary work in mental health as an activist and campaigner but I'm on a basic state pension, less even than I should be getting (according to @paullewismoney in his blog post Women will get less than men from the new State Pension)

I live in a village in NE Fife which has buses but they go past Stratheden psychiatric hospital into Cupar, one every hour, and in the other direction it takes over an hour to get to Glenrothes.  It isn't easy to be continually reminded of the £4.4million new build unit for mental patients at Stratheden, money from Scottish Government, awarded after my son's psychiatric abuse in the old unit and my whistleblowing, resulting in a successful Ombudsman decision end of September 2014.

Until recently I wasn't able to use buses due to physical health issues which I don't want to go into detail about at this stage.  However since the summer and a serious health scare I have reduced my food intake, lost weight, taken up swimming and fitness, which means I can now go on buses for long distances and have done so to Glasgow, 2 and a half hours at a go.  

NHS Fife got £4.4 million and we got nothing for exposing the abusive treatment of psychiatric patients in Stratheden Hospital which has been going on for decades.  This year in March I received my pension, at 62 and a half, and lost the Carers' Allowance of £61/week for 24/7 support of my son who lives in the same house as me.  I am not surprised that I became unwell in the summer.  The unfairness and injustice no doubt had an impact on my health, physically and mentally.  I am glad to have survived the experience with support from family and friends.

In 2012 I had many meetings with my MSP Roderick Campbell to discuss the issues at Stratheden, even before this, many Emails exchanged, and I had asked him to help us with getting a council house in Dundee because I wanted to move out of the area, not be living so close to the hospital where my son was abused and where I was coercively drugged in 2002.  I got a letter from my GP and put my name on the Dundee council housing list but Mr Campbell said he could not help me with this request.  There are hundreds of people before me on the list.  I also tried to get a council house exchange but with no success.  I did consider private rented accommodation in Dundee but did not want to give up a secure council tenancy and be at risk of homelessness.  This would not have been good for my son's mental health.  Or for mine.

So we were stuck in the village next to Stratheden Hospital where many workers live, ancillary staff mostly, nursing assistants, catering and cleaning operatives, the lower paid.  And if we had to get the bus then passing the psychiatric hospital was a constant reminder of abusive treatment.  No escape.  Therefore I knuckled down and kept up the campaign for justice.  Continuing to be involved in various initiatives, including the clinical psychology service user and carer groups at Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities.  The latter took 7 hours of travel in a day to be involved, mostly trains, at meetings or workshops on CBT or IPT.  At the same time being a carer for my son at home and another son in Dundee who is a mental health service user.

Since the summer and the health scare I have taken a break to some extent from mental health campaigning although still keeping an eye on what's happening.  However I am continually reminded of the human rights issues in psychiatric treatment by fellow campaigners and by local people who bear the scars, disabled and marginalised, scapegoated because they feel the pain of life and express it externally as mental distress.  Rather than internalise it and have physical health issues which are more respectable, better funded and don't carry the stigma and discrimination of the badge of mental illness.

But the scapegoated mentally ill also have physical health complaints due to the forced or voluntary drug treatment.  Doubly disadvantaged and disabled.

I have lived in Fife for over 25 years and 20 of those years have involved supporting family members in and out of Stratheden psychiatric hospital and mental health services.  Myself included.  A long haul.  All of us with psychiatric labels in "notes".  All of us coercively treated with psychiatric drugs.  Forced to take the pills or injections of antipsychotics.  Recovery and tapering of drugs undertaken by ourselves, with or without the support of psychiatrists.  

I never accepted the labels or diagnoses and wouldn't apply for DLA or let the system disable me.  On principle.  I was lucky.  And escaped with a 6 inch Titanium plate on my right fibula, following 3 fractures when walking down a stair in 2005 after a Cupar Library job interview.  I didn't fall, wasn't pushed.  My leg just fractured on its own.  Likely due to maximum doses of Venlafaxine over a year or so, 2002/3, when I was in my 50's.  Bone loss.  The antidepressant didn't work, in terms of making me happy.  It made me flat.  The antipsychotics had depressed me.  I could only get mood balance and equilibrium by coming off the drugs completely, and did so myself by 2004.  Going against the advice of the psychiatrist regarding having to be lifelong on Lithium.  No I didn't need to be on it.  So I came off it.  Tapered 200mgs a month, from 800mgs a day to zero.  And got back on with my life.

And so I have started to apply for full-time jobs.  Starting another career at my age.  Needs must.  I've got the energy for it.  Fortunately.  I don't want to work independently and prefer to be in a team or collective.  I like engaging with people and have missed this in the virtual world of social networking, blogging and Emailing.  My recent visits to swimming pools have been enjoyable for the engagements even although I've had to speak out and challenge when finding poor and even bad management in Fife leisure centres.  Aggressive swimmers and dodgy mixed gender changing rooms, close up showers with strange men.  Staff behaving inappropriately.  Like a TV soap but not as entertaining.

-----------------------------------


London Olympic pool
walking up stairs to London Olympic pool for a swim, going the long way round
Leith Victoria swimming pool visit
swimming at Tollcross Glasgow commonwealth pool

Beacon centre Burntisland pool swim
visiting Balhousie Castle, Perth














leaving Black Watch museum, going towards North Inch, Perth, my home town


Tuesday, 15 December 2015

forced psychiatric injections: hip replacements

Recently when out walking I bumped into a friend who I hadn't seen for a few years and she was walking with a stick.  I thought she looked a lot older and wouldn't have recognised her if she hadn't said my name.

I asked her about the stick and she said she was waiting for a hip replacement.  I didn't think the woman was very old, maybe about my age or younger.  Why was she needing this I asked.  She replied that she thought it was the forced injections of psychiatric drugs in her hip which she sustained at Stratheden Hospital that caused it.

I remembered our first meeting when I ran Peer Support Fife, maybe about 5yrs ago, and hearing this woman's story.  Of how she had lost a child, a son of about 10 years old, and her grief was such that she ended up in Stratheden.  Where she was badly treated and at one point ran away to England where I think she is from originally.  Eventually coming back to the hospital for more treatment.

She was angry when I met her back then and I understood why.  I would have been the same in her position.  I have often felt angry about the injustice of psychiatric treatment and the targeting of women who feel the pain of loss and the pain of life.  The risks to women in the psychiatric system, the lack of protection and lack of respect.  Which is mirrored in other areas of society.  But particularly heinous in a system where people are incapacitated by psychiatric drugs, forcibly, against their will.

------------------------------

I'm bored ...


Friday, 11 December 2015

Walk the Talk: A personal testimonial: " It’s a matter of life and death"

Walk the Talk: Walking together in the name of social justice: A personal testimonial

"Please don't think I am 'crazy'.  I'm not.  I just suffer a lot of cognitive distress and I’ve found this government terrifying and dehumanising. I will add that I am now safe due to self managing my health for the last 3 months and being compassionate to myself.
Tonight I sat and watched Jeremy Corbyn’s first Prime Minister’s question time.

For the first time in four years I felt safe.  For a long time, politics has been filled with rich white men who have had power since birth, who just didn’t know, but to whom those without a voice were at utter mercy.

It has felt like the mentally ill have been bombarded with what can only be described as psychological warfare.  At the whim of a pen pusher all our safety and security can be swept away, such that we could actually starve.  We must present ourselves to an ATOS doctor to be humiliated and scared and declared fit for work.

We cannot defend ourselves against that, sometimes we can’t even present to sign on.
I have PTSD and bipolar, and extremely severe agoraphobia.  Thankfully when my turn to be assessed my consultant was able to intervene and prevent.  Such was my terror I made plans to set fire to myself.  If I hadn’t had a consultant to intervene, how would I have coped?  I can’t leave the house and I can’t let people in the house.

All around me was scorn and derision of ‘the benefit class’.  Our leaders spoke it, to shame us, to starve us, and to terrorise us into the workplace.  And I am just so ill.

The scorn began to sink deeper into me and my agoraphobia became worse.  I couldn’t even step out onto my driveway.  I couldn’t tend my garden.  Eventually I couldn’t even get out of bed.

More news attacking the poor came, more measures to make life harder, scarier, hungrier and one night, feeling like I was nothing to my own society, and so frightened of the authorities, I wandered into my overgrown garden and set fire to my clothes.  I was lucky.  There was help and aside from small burns I was stopped in time.

Sat in A&E in singed clothes, suicidal, talking to the crisis team, there was nothing they could do, but send me back home and keep their fingers crossed I would not try that again.  There were no beds, no weekend provision available, and it was a week before my next contact.  What saved me was the eyes of the sister as she gave me a sedative and discharged me.  She was so worried, on a personal level, and so outraged that someone in my state just walks out the door, with no-one to call, no one to pick them up, no support, nothing. I knew I couldn’t traumatise her, as she walked me out, by harming myself.  It would have been her that was forced to guide me out and she would have suffered.

When Jeremy Corbyn stood up I felt something… I felt my society could be kind.  We need our leaders to make us feel safe.  We need more than words on the impact of austerity on struggling people, words on the mental health crisis; we need leaders who know how people are living and how inhumane policies can be.

I am starting to feel safer and have managed to start leaving my house on my own.  It’s frightening and it’s difficult.  I have had bad flashbacks today walking to pick up my meds.  But I feel less frightened.  I feel less ashamed.  I feel less of a burden.  I’m not so scared of my neighbours and the people on the streets.

I am returning to my MSc next month.  It’s been a 4 year marathon, my MSc, sitting frightened in seminars because I am on benefits, scared people will find out and hate me, in fact, each year I got too ill to continue.  This academic year I will feel less frightened and ashamed, and I cannot put into words the value of this.

In my opinion government policies have terrorised and killed large numbers of the mentally ill through their punishment and abuse of the poor.  It has to stop.  It’s a matter of life and death.

Rebecca, 39 from Yorkshire"





Monday, 7 December 2015

Research Fellow: EMPOWER Project, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow

Research Fellow, University of Glasgow, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, Research Institute of Health and Wellbeing;  £33,574 to £37,768 per annum, Grade 7

"This is an exciting opportunity to make a leading contribution as Project Manager for the United Kingdom NIHR-HTA and Australian NHMRC funded study EMPOWER (Early Signs Monitoring to Prevent Relapse and PrOmote Wellbeing, Engagement and Recovery).

Our aim is to build an intervention (EMPOWER) that refines existing digital smartphone technology for the monitoring of early warning signs of relapse in people with a diagnosis of Schizophrenia; empower service users and carers to enhance wellbeing and self management of early warning signs; and empower mental staff to deliver innovative pathways to relapse prevention. The post holder will act as Project Manager for EMPOWER and work directly with the Chief Investigator, Professor Andrew Gumley.

The post-holder will also be required to contribute to the formulation and submission of research publications and research proposals as well as help manage and direct this complex and challenging project as opportunities allow.

The Athena SWAN Charter recognises commitment to advancing gender equality in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in academia. The Institute of Health and Wellbeing has achieved a Silver Award. Further information at http://www.gla.ac.uk/researchinstitutes/healthwellbeing/athenaswan/

The Institute of Health & Wellbeing supports the principle of flexible working and undertakes that all requests will be considered seriously."

----------------------------

I have to admit to being disappointed and critical of the job description and person spec for this post.  On first reading it appeared to be a useful development but on further study there are many flaws, from my perspective as a psychiatric survivor, an experienced grassroots community development worker and someone who has spent many years (a lifetime) supporting family members in and out of the psychiatric system.  And others also.

The language bothers me, including: 
  • intervention
  • schizophrenia
  • early warning signs
  • relapse prevention
  • recovery
  • early signs monitoring
  • Chief Investigator

However the phrase "innovative pathways to relapse prevention" and the mention of Prof Andrew Gumley in a leadership role are hopeful signs.  

Good luck to the successful candidate.


Sunday, 6 December 2015

Sidecar by Ed Muirhead

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Putting relationships at the heart of recovery from psychosis: Prof Andrew Gumley @rcpsych Nottingham 20Nov15




------------------------

and my comment on the presentation:

"Nice presentation Andrew. I particularly like the photos, of mothers and babies, human and animal. The nurturing, secure base and safe haven which has been my experience of family life, both as a child and parent. It meant that I could recover from psychiatric treatment, and so could the other 7 of my family members who had no choice but to engage with psychiatry. Providing a safe haven and secure base was my way of helping my family to recover from psychiatric abuse. The psychoses were not the problem, rather they were, for me and my family, a natural occurrence and way of coping with the trauma of everyday existence, the ups and downs of life that happens to all of us, at some time or another."


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Critical Psychiatry: Are early intervention services beneficial?; and my comment

from Dr Double's blog
Critical Psychiatry: Are early intervention services beneficial?

My comment:

"Speaking as a person who has experienced "psychoses" on 3 occasions that resulted in psychiatric intervention or forced drugging, and also as a "carer" of many family members who have experienced altered mind states or "psychoses", I still believe that early SUPPORT is the way to go. But I don't like the word or action of "intervention" and didn't like being invaded by psychiatric drugs that took away my agency, made me vulnerable to takeovers and exploitation.

In 1967 my mother experienced another altered mind state or nervous breakdown as they called it back then. We lived in Perth, Scotland. She had given birth about 6 months before, to my youngest sister, I was 14 and a half. My father was distressed and asked me what we should do. We lived on the 4th floor of a 10 story block of flats. My mother's perceptions were altered. Eg she let the budgie out of the cage and out of the verandah window, thinking it would fly back. It didn't. We never saw the budgie again.

My father, a science fiction writer with the Daily Express in Fleet St, London, was distressed because he had been a psychiatric inpatient himself, about 3 years previously and knew the score. Forced ECT over many sessions. Forced drugs. Locked in. At the mercy of psychiatry, regarding freedom to leave, to get back on with your life. He didn't want to make the decision regarding my mother getting taken away in an ambulance to the local mental hospital in Perth.

So I made the decision. Someone had to. It wasn't safe for her to be in an altered mind state, 4 floors up, not sleeping, writing poetry, feeling the pain of the world, going outside into the darkness and wandering about the town. She resisted going into the psychiatric hospital because she'd been there before, knew the score. And berated us for sending her away to be forcibly shocked and drugged. We felt her pain.

But what else could we do? There were no alternatives available. Nearly 50 years later and there are still NO alternatives available for people in altered mind states, not caused by recreational drugs. Eight of us in my family have been subject to the forced drug treatment, stigma and ritual humiliation because we experience altered mind states naturally, whether due to the pain of living or extreme exhaustion. I have always resisted the regime when I could. It is a matter of principle. And because I don't like psychiatric drugs or being forced.

It is way beyond time that we stopped forcing drugs on people who experience altered mind states because they are sensitive and imaginative, experiencing the pain of living. Giving us labels because the treatment doesn't work. A failed paradigm is not the fault of the person. The system is to blame. Let's devise alternative ways of working with people in psychoses and stop making them/us the scapegoats for an unjust and unfair world. We deserve respect for being human."


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

the shame of psychiatry; the rape of the Sabine women

I realised as a child that there was something bad happening in my family from an outside source.  And it was to do with my mother.  We lived in Dunsinane Drive, Letham, Perth, at the time.  My grandparents were at number 81 and we were at number 57.  Prior to this we had all lived in a house at Kingswell Terrace.

I would be about 7, old enough to go on the back of my Uncle Ian's scooter, holding on tight around corners.  Making me forget the distress back in my granny's house, the family confab. 

My Uncle was a sailor and had brought back a tape recorder from his travels.  Wooden Heart by Elvis Presley was one of the tunes played:


 
And I stayed with my grandparents for a while.  Then later when my parents went to London in preparation for the three of us going there, to be near my dad in his job with the Daily Express, scriptwriting Jeff Hawke with creator Sydney Jordan.  I remember telling all my friends at school that we were moving to London.  However I don't think my mother took to the big city although she did try it out and told me stories of her experiences.  

When they were away I broke my left leg, dancing on wet grass, ended up in Bridge of Earn Hospital with a full leg plaster (my right leg got a fractured fibula 3 places 2005, titanium plate).  Didn't get crutches, I was very disappointed, just a stick and a rubber shoe which slowed me down at Caledonian Road Primary School, going up the girls' stairs to the P3 class.  My parents got me a black and white cat, Tubby, to cheer me up.  But after we moved to Pomarium flats, 4th floor, it wasn't suitable for a cat.  Also I used to dress him up in doll's clothes and he used to hide.  So my grandparents got Tubby and he got tubby with porridge and milk every morning for breakfast.  They also had Fergus the Scottie dog who I took for walks, stopping at every lamppost.  I soon got bored and preferred the large brown poodle belonging to someone in Paradise Place.

About 6 months after my youngest sister was born, in 1966, I was 14 and a half, my mother became unwell again, wasn't sleeping, and my father also was distressed.  I think because by that time he'd also been a psychiatric patient in Murray Royal Hospital, Perth, and knew the score.  What happened behind the closed doors.  The shame, the force, the ritual humiliation of mad women and their consorts, the men.  Shock treatment over many courses, drugs and agency taken away.  Psychiatric workers complicit.  Becoming mad themselves in the process.  A community of mad people.  So that society could feel safe.

My father said to me, what should we do?  We were in a 4th floor flat and my mother's perceptions were altered.  There was nothing else for it.  I said that she would have to go to hospital.  The decision was made, by me.  Because I have always thought that people in an altered mind state, or psychosis, need support as soon as possible.  The issue is that we need alternative ways of supporting people in psychoses.  But until that is available we have no choice but to enter the psychiatric system and try to withstand the force, emerge with our dignity intact, regardless of what has been done to us.  Or that's how I look at it.
Niccolò Bambini: Der Raub der Sabinerinnen

In 1970 I made my first visit to Murray Royal, aged 17, and saw the locked women's ward Kinnoull, the distressed women, and met with male psychiatrists who said I had an old head on young shoulders.  I just thought they were mad like the patients.  And didn't think I would ever be a mental patient.  Because I was resilient and had insight.  But painful, tortured childbirths, meant I did have to go through the psychiatric system.  In solidarity with my mother and sisters.  Similarly my 3 sons.

Forty-five years of engaging with and resisting psychiatric treatment, the shame and the force.  It hasn't got easier and in fact in some ways it's much worse.  Care in the community or coercion and control (Prof Tom Szasz wrote of this).  More recently I had a real fight on my hands, against NHS Fife and their use of a seclusion room at Stratheden Hospital, to "manage" patients.  No toilet, no water to drink, locked in for hours and left.  A disgrace and an abuse of human rights.  That had been going on for decades.  Unchecked.

I eventually "won" an Ombudsman case 30 months after starting to complain and got a grudging one line apology in a letter from Dr Brian Montgomery, interim CEO at the Fife Health Board (BUT they didn't stop using the seclusion room until after the SPSO judgement, and NHS Fife were awarded £4.4million from Scottish Government for a new psychiatric unit. We got nothing.).  

Despite the indignity and disrespect I continued to spectate at board meetings until June this year when I got scunnered off by an attempted invasion of my space, in full view of others, a senior male demanding a hug.  A step too far.  No doubt a planned manoevre to be rid of me.  It worked.

Space invaders.  Takeovers.  Abductions.  Betrayals.  Battles.  Resistance fighting.  Recovery.  Remission.  Mental Illness.  Psychiatric drugs.  Big pharma.  Profit.  Money.  Victims.  Pain.  Justice.  Reparation.  Reconciliation.  Take your pick.

I got involved in January 2008 because I believed that people in the Scottish Recovery movement were serious about shifting the paradigm and creating a fairer system, giving psychiatric survivors and people who use mental health services their rightful place.  At the centre.  Unfortunately it only took a few months for me to cotton on that it was more about money, fame, position and hierarchical shenanigans.

Good luck to them.