£4.4 million for new IPCU unit at Stratheden Hospital

In Fife Herald, 21 February 2014:


My Email sent to NHS Fife senior staff in response to this news:

“My son and I have just read the news in our local paper, the Fife Herald, about the £4.4 million for new IPCU unit at Stratheden Hospital, which I’ve put in a blog post:

I note the statement by Mary Porter that says “The provision of hospital environments which offer privacy and maintain dignity is an essential element of good patient care.” and “this new unit will allow us to deliver the highest quality care to these patients in a therapeutic environment, appropriate to their needs.”.  And John Wilson’s quote “The replacement of the present unit with purpose-built accommodation has been one of our top priorities”.

 Two years ago, in February 2012, my son experienced dehumanising and damaging psychiatric inpatient treatment in the Stratheden IPCU.  In the time since we have been picking up the pieces after his traumatic treatment while speaking out about the injustices.  It’s not been easy.  For either of us.

 I do hope that this proposed new unit will provide a therapeutic environment.  However, to improve the inpatient experience, ensuring dignity and proper care, will also depend on therapeutic practices by staff.  This should include robust monitoring and evaluation processes, to gather feedback from all patients and carers, as to their experiences of the patient pathway, from admission to discharge.  In my judgement.

 I believe that it is only when you listen to the customers of the service that you will know if the care is of the highest quality.  I have learned, from what happened in Feb/Mar 2012 in Stratheden Hospital, to question if a service is truly person/patient-centred.  To test this by asking the patients and carers what their experiences were, to hear their stories.  That’s what’s important and what will make a real difference and bring about real improvements.  In my experience.

 I look forward to hearing positive feedback from Stratheden patients and carers that will confirm services have improved, that the environment is therapeutic, in all areas (RMO, nursing, OT, psychology, physiotherapy etc) from admission through to discharge.”

The origins of mental health services

An informative blog post from Joanna Moncrieff on the state of madness now and then.

Joanna Moncrieff

The Essez County Asylum (Warley hospital) The Essex County Asylum (Warley hospital)

In order to explore the current political context of mental health services, as I will be doing in some upcoming blogs, it is necessary to establish what the modern mental health system actually consists of and what function it serves. It is only by tracing the historical development of mental health services, and analysing how and why the system arose, that we are able to fully comprehend its actual purpose.

In England up until the 19th century, managing the problems posed by those who lost their minds was primarily the responsibility of the family, backed up by the social welfare system known as the Poor Laws.

Caring for the mentally disturbed was not so different from caring for the physically sick. Both groups needed feeding, clothing and housing. If the family was reasonably wealthy, the needs of one individual could be borne by the…

View original post 1,683 more words

meaningless involvement

I woke up this morning thinking about Scotland’s mental health world and my experiences over the last 7 years or more of trying to have an influence on psychiatric settings and community MH services.  The phrase “meaningless involvement” again came to mind as it has been doing more and more these days.

The feeling that it’s all just a sham, a tick-box, tokenistic exercise and pretense that people with “lived experience” have a place at the table, are respected as experts in their own field or have something valuable to say. 

I was used to being a community development worker and empowering people in different communities or settings, to be informed and to have a voice.  I didn’t expect the mental health world to be any different.  But it is.  I’ve been forced to admit it.  I have no choice but to tell the truth.  Let the cat out of the bag.  Pull back the curtain.  Expose it.

When the government documents spoke of inclusion, peer support, recovery, person-centred services, shared decision making, respect for carers, I believed it.  And got involved in local and national groups to have a voice and influence.  It only took a few months into 2008 when I realised that not everything in the garden was rosy.

[I liked this Lynn Anderson song when 18, danced to it, but it wasn’t real life]

The weeds and thorns are everywhere, choking the real life out of vividness, creativeness, individuality, spirituality, uniqueness, collectivism and humanity.  We might be mad but we’re not stupid.  Stop controlling us as if we were puppets.  The strings have been cut and we’re doing it for ourselves.  Leave off.  Do us a favour. 

[I liked this Sandie Shaw song when 15, still do, but it wasn’t real life]

Mental illness is a psychiatric construct.  Psychiatry is a patriarchal system.  Some of us don’t accept the mental illness labels or that daddy knows best.  When you can accept this then we’ll have “meaningful involvement”.

Are you listening?  Have you got it yet?

Great arty news, awards and so on

great blog post and Dogboy film from Sarah K Reece and friends!

Sarah K Reece

I finally got back the marks for my Digital Media class last year – I think is the best result I’ve had for anything in my Visual Arts degree so far –

HD digi media

This is for the stop motion animation project I did in a small group. See more details about the project here. Apparently the animation is now being used as an example for future classes. Wow, nice!

Considering that my first involvement with the medium of film: Regeneration won an award in Canada recently, I’m wondering if this means I should give film/animation/digital media more serious consideration in my degree or arts practice?

It’s also making me think that I work well in teams, and to deadlines, despite what I’ve always believed. Maybe I need to seek out some collaborative art opportunities? 🙂

In other exciting news, I collected the keys to my new studio today! It’s…

View original post 78 more words

I wonder what the Scottish ECT Accreditation Network (SEAN) is up to?

It’s been a while since I perused the Scottish ECT Accreditation Network (SEAN) website so I’ve just had a quick look through to see what’s going down, in terms of involuntary shock treatment, the user reference group and what the statistics might be saying.


photo from University of Michigan website

Although the latter doesn’t really tell us anything about what the people who get ECT feel like.  There has been no service user controlled/led ECT research undertaken in Scotland.  And the SEAN figures are based on assessments done by the treating doctors.  It is not any sort of independent, controlled assessment of the usefulness of this treatment.

The SEAN 2013 annual report summary says that in 2012 there were 360 patients getting ECT, most of them with a depression diagnosis, 61% of these found anti-depressants to be of no use (like me) and 32% got it without consenting to it.  Which means involuntary or against their will.

Of the people who agreed to have it (and some may have been persuaded, as in if you don’t take treatment then you’ll have to stay longer in hospital, as I heard an older female patient about my age say in an acute ward last year) 43% didn’t show a definite improvement.  Which is nearly half of the folk getting it.  Nearly a third got headaches.  Five had critical incidents

I’m not seeing anything in the summary about ratios of women to men getting ECT so will check out the full report.   Ah yes, now I see it, 65% women to 35% men getting it.  As usual it says that this equates to the ratios of women to men being treated for depressive illness.  (you can see why men don’t want to see their GP if they are in a low mood).  And the mean age is 58 for both sexes. 

Checking out the SEAN reference group page on the website, service user and carer section, and it is blank.  Obviously nothing to report there then. 

More anon ….

Mary Beard: vocal women treated as ‘freakish androgynes’ in Guardian

Here’s an article that I can identify with, as a female psychiatric survivor activist and recent convert to feminism in my 60’s.  After reading Bonnie Burstow, feminist author and academic, and her comment that “ECT is a gentleman’s way of battering a woman” and that everyone is treated like a woman in psychiatric settings.

 ‘Mary Beard (@wmarybeard): vocal women treated as ‘freakish androgynes’: Academic who has faced online abuse says prejudice against women is hardwired over two

millennia, from Homer to Twitter’ – Guardian, 14 February 2014:

The first recorded instance of a man telling a woman to “shut up” was at the start of Homer’s Odyssey, when Telemachus, son of Penelope and Odysseus, tells his mother speech is a man’s business. The same language is used today in trolling, she argued. “What’s the connection between publicly speaking out in support of a female logo on a banknote, Twitter threats of rape and decapitation, and Telemachus’s putdown of Penelope?

Mary Beard OBE is professor of classics at the University of Cambridge

Mary Beard (from Guardian article)

 “It doesn’t much matter what line you take as a woman – if you venture into traditional male territory the abuse comes anyway. It is not what you say it that prompts it – it is the fact that you are saying it.

You can perfectly well say: ‘Look at you, Beard. You have got fantastic opportunities to get your voice heard.’ Yet the fact remains women who put their head above the parapet have a much harder time than men. We have got to think about that in a calm, historical analytical way.

 “We just have got to have a bit more onsciousness-raising, old-fashioned feminist consciousness-raising. How do we use language? Why does it matter? And how does it put women down?

 Great stuff!

“World looks to Scotland after mental health care improved” – are you serious?

Friday 7 February 2014 article in the Herald: World looks to Scotland after mental health care improved

It features retiring Chief Executive of Scotland’s Mental Welfare Commission Dr Donny Lyons who says in the piece:

Dr Lyons believes that as a consequence of these changes being implemented Scotland now leads the world in many respects in terms of its mental health system. “I think mental health care has come on a long way in Scotland over the past decade,” he said. “There has been a shift in the culture of doing things to people with mental health issues to doing things with people.


Over the past 14 years a raft of new laws – including the Adults With Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000, the Mental Health Act (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) 2003 and the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 – ushered in vast changes, giving more rights to patients, setting out more protections from ill-treatment and giving them more of a voice. Part of Dr Lyons’s job has involved monitoring this new legislation in practice.

On reading this I made an immediate response in a comment which was published:

As a mother, carer and survivor of mental illness and psychiatric treatment, living in Fife, I have to disagree with Dr Lyons regarding the efficacy of Scotland’s Mental Health Act for people with a “mental disorder” and their carers. It has been my experience over the last 5 years and more that the Act isn’t implemented appropriately and the safeguards within the Act aren’t safe. The principle of “Respect for Carers” hasn’t been practised where I live and the rights of the family member I care for were not protected under the Act.

Because of the human rights issues I have experienced and the lack of respect I now find myself a writer, activist and campaigner in mental health matters, and participate in many national mental health groups from the carer and survivor perspective. I speak out from personal experience and from the stories told to me my others, of the difficulties faced in psychiatric settings when someone is deemed to be “without capacity” and drug treatment is forced upon them, under the Act. 

 Unfortunately the mental health law in Scotland has been used by professionals to justify coercive treatment and leaving carers out of the loop. Confidentiality is used to keep information from family members and the named person role in the Act, if it is the carer, can be disregarded or not given its full place. I want to see safer psychiatric settings for detained patients under the Mental Health Act where the patient and their carer is listened to and respected, even when disagreeing with treatment. Having a “mental illness” should not mean disregarding a person’s wishes or overriding their concerns.

I only want what other hospital patients receive which is person-centred care and treatment in a safe environment with family members and carers respected and informed at every stage of the patient journey into discharge.

I’ve engaged with the psychiatric system in Scotland since 1970 and unlike Dr Lyons I haven’t seen major improvements in the care of patients.  In fact where I live in Fife things have got steadily worse since 1995 when I first had a family member an inpatient in Stratheden Hospital.

In my experience the mental health act hasn’t made it safer for my family members in psychiatric settings.  The Mental Welfare Commission and other safeguards within the Act, including Mental Health Officers, named person and the Mental Health Tribunal, have not protected the rights of my family when detained under the Act.

If it’s not working for me and mine then it isn’t working, in my opinion.  We can’t be selective in gathering evidence or proof of efficacy.  It’s not just about listening to patients and carers who have had good experiences.  And it’s not just about buildings being unfit for purpose.  

It is also about staff being unfit to practise.  Mental health acts not being implemented or monitored.  Safeguards that are not safe.  Until such time that it does what is says on the tin then I contend there is nothing to be proud of.