Email from Geoff Huggins on 24 June 2014 that caused me pain, wounding me with its underlying blaming and shaming

I received an Email from Geoff Huggins on 24 June 2014 at 17.07 which caused me pain with its underlying blaming and shaming of the person I am and the work that I do.  It was a personal attack on my character, behaviour and intentions.  Copied in to others.

I contend that it was slanderous and defamatory.  However I am an unpaid carer, on £61/week Carers Allowance, live in a council house, separated from my husband, supporting my son 24/7 after his dehumanising treatment in Stratheden Hospital, Fife, in February 2012.  I can’t afford to take my case against Geoff Huggins to a solicitor.  I’m not on benefits and wouldn’t be entitled to legal aid.

You might describe me as “poor” in comparison to Scottish Government civil servants.

This Email wounded me to the extent that I had to cancel my presentation on the Mental Health Act Safeguards at the INTAR Liverpool Conference the next day, 25 June, and then on 27 June my son had to call out the paramedics because I was feeling very unwell, linked to the high blood pressure condition I have, as a result of taking lithium.

I was targeted with this Email because I had complained about being excluded from the Scottish Patient Safety Programme exchange with the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership.  And was then left out of celebrations at Edinburgh Castle with leading Scottish politicians.  It felt very unfair and unjust.

I responded to the Email later that night of 24 June, justifying my reputation and my life’s work, here are the opening paragraphs:

“Geoff I have considered your accusations in this Email and I don’t accept them as being an accurate representation of my character and behaviour.

In fact I consider your tone and words used to be both hierarchical and denigrating, unbefitting to someone in your position with Scottish Government.  It’s not the first time you’ve spoken to me like this.  It reads as bullying and undermining, and in the social networking world they would call it trolling.”

On 28 June 2014 I raised a complaint about Geoff Huggins’ Email, with Paul Gray, Director General Health & Social Care and Chief Executive NHS Scotland.

My complaint was investigated by Yvonne Strachan, Head of Equality, Human Rights and Third Sector at Scottish Government, and middle man throughout this process was Ben Plouviez, Head of Information Management at Scottish Government.

I received a letter from Paul Gray via Email dated 2 October 2014, saying that my complaint was not upheld and that Geoff Huggins’ Email was “direct and robust“.

In the complaint investigation report written by Yvonne Strachan and dated 3 September 2014 one of the recommendations was that:

Ms Muirhead demonstrates acceptable behaviour in the manner in which she engages and participates in such meetings and events.”

Here is the copy of the Email sent to me from Geoff Huggins on 24 June 2014 and copied in to various Scottish senior mental health workers (bolding is mine):


24 June 2014       17:07



Dear Chrys

I have been reading your recent correspondence with a number of my colleagues in this and other organisations.

In your correspondence with Scottish Government, NHS and voluntary sector staff you indicate a belief that it is part of our terms and conditions that we are obligated to accept to be spoken to in an abusive manner. It is not. If people disagree with you or question your behaviour you describe them as bullying and cite your personal experience of illness and your status as a carer as in some way justifying your behaviour. It is not a justification. If people do not accede to your demands for priority access you say they are not treating you with respect. People have consistently treated you with respect.

We and others have regularly involved you in meetings and events related to mental health in Scotland, making every effort to accommodate you as a full participant. Where you have attended or participated your contribution focuses on your experience and that of your family. That is an entirely reasonable contribution to make, but you make it in a way that excludes or devalues the experience of others and which prevents other voices from being heard. Your tone is consistently belligerent and denigrating of others, including others with lived experience of the mental health system, whether as a patient or carer.

You trivialise other’s experience with the consequence that people tell us they do not want to speak up when you are present at events for fear of what you will say. That is neither desirable or acceptable. Where we involve others or work through representative organisations you describe them as collaborators and demean their actions. That is not acceptable and we will no longer tacitly tolerate it.

I have read the correspondence about the decision not to allocate you a place at the IIMHL match on patient safety. You had previously selected a different match which had a focus on lived experience and there was no suggestion that you would not have been welcome to attend that match. Ruth and others have set out the reasons for refusing your application to join the session previously and I will not add to their explanation other than to say that I agree with their reasons given previous experience as set out above. As you were not attending the session on patient safety or one of the other matches you were not invited to the reception at the Castle. Had you attended the match on human rights which was also hosted in Edinburgh you would, of course, have been invited to the Castle with the members of Plus Perth.

We will continue to listen to and where appropriate investigate concerns that you raise with us. However, we will no longer give you special treatment or consideration to the detriment of other service users or carers. I would ask you to consider your behaviour and the impact it has on the health and wellbeing of others.

I am copying this correspondence to regular recipients of your correspondence including the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Alex Neill MSP, the Chief Executive of the NHS and Director General for Health and Social Care Paul Gray, Colin McKay at the MWC, Billy Watson at SAMH, Nigel Henderson and Simon Bradstreet at the Scottish Recovery Network, Joyce Mouriki at VOX, John Wilson at NHS Fife, Denise Coia and Ruth Glassborow at HIS and Fran Silvestri at IIMHL. I anticipate that you will want to share this correspondence on your blog and request that if you do so that you reproduce it in full.

Geoff Huggins

Geoff Huggins | Acting Director of Health and Social Care Integration | The Scottish Government | 1E.12 | St Andrew’s House | Regent Road | Edinburgh | EH1 3DG |Tel: 0131 244 3210 | Mob. 07515 559192


Chief Wrangler team Ginsberg and resisting the force

Just noticed the different designs on the Ginsberg website and the “team” information.  

I attended the first Hack Weekend for the project in April 2013 and tried twice to be “involved” but the Chief Wrangler wouldn’t have me on board and that’s OK.  No hard feelings.  I’ve got plenty of other work to do as a writer, activist, campaigner and critical voice in Scotland’s mental health world. 

However I’m critical of the Scottish Government’s Mental Health Strategy written by the Chief Wrangler and about his engagement with the national mental health service user group VOX which I think has been less than helpful.  Making them more like FOG, a focus group of government.

I’m also critical of the free reign given to the Chief Wrangler to undermine and bully a mother and unpaid carer, copying in others and causing stress.  It felt personal.  My complaint wasn’t upheld but I will be taking it further. 

I contend that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that the Chief Wrangler has helped to “increase the mental wellbeing of the Scottish population” although he may have been an avid “early adopter of self technologies“.

It seems to me that there is little merit in meeting force with force or “wrangling”.  It can become like bullying and intimidation, entrenchment of a position and defensive attacks.  

Rather it makes sense to me to resist the force and to stand firm.  To take back the power by peaceful means.  To negotiate and to reason until sense prevails.


Mental Health (Scotland) Bill – my second submission & 6 page testimony that the Mental Health Act Safeguards were not safe in February 2012

Here is a link to my second submission and testimony, evidence given to the Health and Sport Committee, Scottish Parliament, in respect of the Mental Health (Scotland) Bill:

“Sometimes, when people are unwell, they may have to be detained in hospital or have treatment against their will. But they still have rights. We all have human rights, and mental health law contains special rights and safeguards to protect people.” Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland

In my testimony I contend that it was my family’s experience in February 2012 that the safeguards contained in the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 were not safe.  That the Act was not implemented properly or monitored effectively.  Which resulted in my son being subject to unreasonable treatment in Stratheden Hospital, Fife.  I write about Named Person, Independent Advocacy, Mental Health Tribunal, Advance Statement and the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland.

I also speak about how the Mental Health Act Principle of Respect for Carers was not adhered to:

“Respect for carers: Those who provide care to service users on an informal basis should receive respect for their role and experience, receive appropriate information and advice, and have their views and needs taken into account”

In fact when I raised concerns with statutory agencies in February 2012 they focused a main part of their Adult Protection Investigation into my character and behaviour, when my son was detained under the Act in a locked ward and being further locked in a seclusion room in the ward which had no toilet or water to drink.  I was accused of causing my son “psychological harm” when he was under the “care and treatment” of NHS Fife.  A psychiatrist and CPN were questioned about me, two men who didn’t know me personally, only as a carer and mother.

I suspect that the label of “schizoaffective disorder” that still sits in my “notes” has had some influence in the discriminating treatment shown towards me in February and March, 2012.  I say this because we have copies of my son’s notes from that time and it says “family history of schizoaffective disorder” in his notes, and I am described as a “difficult and demanding mother”.  I believe this was because I challenged their practices and asked for evidence of their policies and procedures, through FOI requests.  And I advocated for my son at clinical meetings in the ward when he wanted me there.


Mavisbank: Repeats its Love

@PeterDLROW: “Mavisbank repeats its love; and perhaps like James, you too can still hear the mavis sing in the long abandoned park, where Clerk’s beautiful house of 1724 still sits. Such survival, is all the more remarkable given the necessary expansion of Edinburgh into its skirt still green, and despite (and surely more evidently) past mitotic undermining of the shafts of the now redundant collieries of Bilston. It is a sad irony that the settlement within the body of Clerk’s villa was most certainly the result of the mines; the mines, minerals from which had brought his family stupendous wealth. It is necessary though to remember here the horrid, slave-like conditions of the miners of the 17th and 18th centuries (where work death was routine.) In stone then, and fabric, Mavisbank also symbolises a heinous incongruity of ‘taste’, which should serve as humble remembrance, that we all shape history – one way or another.”

Hole Ousia


Opening Chapter of ‘Repeats its Love’

Ventures into our past may sometimes seem without place – but with Mavisbank, the early 18th century villa of Baron Clerk, whose beauty transcends horrific neglect, the crumbling and subsiding stone has impassioned many in love and some in awe. How ‘disproportionable’ this may sound, to coin Baron Clerk’s quaint neologism, for stone, inanimate, cannot broker emotion. That may be, and whilst such feelings may be both misguided and misunderstood, others may still choose to dismiss Mavisbank as no more than an ornament or ‘dolls house.’ This essay will argue that such an outlook misses not just the beauty but the significance of Mavisbank.

When in 1987, Midlothian Council brought at late hour, the lead cannons of the wreckers to the courtyard of Mavisbank, they were only stopped by the man that is James Simpson. It is unclear how, but James Simpson, surrounded by…

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it was the SMHRN conference line-up that led to my resignation from the “user led” research group

Last week I realised that I couldn’t sit through the forthcoming Scottish Mental Health Research Network (SMHRN) conference and therefore couldn’t take part in the Scottish Mental Health User Led Research Group (of which I helped start up, did the blog and twitter for, recruited members to) workshop and therefore had to resign from the research group.  

That was the order of it.

Last year I’d attended the SMHRN annual event for the first time and it had been mostly about mice and brains, dehumanising treatment,  a very difficult experience for a person like me who has been subject to forced drug treatment in psychiatric settings, after having babies and at the menopause.  I wrote this Mad in America blog post after attending last year’s SMHRN conference: ‘Biomarkers for Mental Illness, Transgenic Mice, and the Otherness of Psychosis‘.  

I remember sticking out like a sore thumb on the day, round peg in a square hole, and various folk avoiding me at the intervals and lunchtime.  Not wanting to speak to a psychiatric survivor, human rights campaigner and mental health activist.  I wasn’t bothered.  It meant I was free to circulate and network, to ask questions and challenge, to catch up with people who I’d engaged with in Emails.  Psychiatrists and the like.

However this year’s conference strapline is ‘De-stigmatising Mental Illness: the Role of Science & Experience‘ and claims to have a “new format” with workshops and a varied input.  In theory I should have been encouraged by the changes and the opportunities.  In reality I’m not keen on the speaker line-up which I think doesn’t go far enough in shifting the paradigm.

It looks like more of the same in different wrapping paper.  The separation of “mental illness” from “mental health problems”, the goats from the sheep, the people who can’t recover because they have genetic brain chemical deficiencies and the others who are OK, allowed to recover.  It’ll be another “them and us” message with an underlying “schizophrenia” bias.   

  • “treatment resistant”
  • “treatment refractory depression requiring brain surgery for mental illness”
  • “severe and enduring mental illness”
  • “biomedical model of mental illness”
  • “non-compliant”
  • “anosognosia”
  • “without capacity”
  • “schizophrenogenic mother”

All the reasons given by biological psychiatry as to why the treatment doesn’t work, the drugs don’t work and why we have to be forced against our will, detained under law, stigmatised and discriminated with lifelong labels, disabled by drugs which shorten our lives drastically, causing chronicity and physical illness.

Locked in seclusion rooms, subject to abusive treatment, ritual humiliation, denial of basic human rights, risks of sexual exploitation, manipulation by unsavoury characters and made to conform to the rules or no chance of freedom.

Mental health act safeguards that aren’t safe.  Advocacy that isn’t independent.  Tribunals that are weighted on the side of the professionals.  Watchdogs with no teeth.  Social workers who side with an abusive system.  Adult protection investigations that blame the mother.  Advance statements that are disregarded.  No respect for carers.  And so on.

I really don’t have the patience for putting up with any more of these hierarchical shenanigans if I have the choice not to. 


The 24th Annual Conference for Alzheimer Europe put people with dementia in the driving seat. Deservedly so.

“The relative failure of the medical model in addressing the needs of people with dementia and caregivers was a pervasive theme throughout the whole conference.”

“Key to the event will be the signing of the Glasgow Declaration: a commitment to promoting the rights, dignity and autonomy of people living with dementia across Europe, as guaranteed in the European Convention of Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”


NHS Forth Valley Policies for Staff (FOI correspondence)


“I have just received this REPLY (24 Oct 2014) and have posted it below. The question that this reply raises in my mind is how many employees like myself have resigned from an NHS Board or Health Authority  after “informal” “invitations” in regards to any of their policies?

Is there is an asymmetry of power here that favours the institution over the individual?

What might be the costs? Well duty of candour may be a “casualty”. The unintentional creation of a “culture of fear” might be a further consequence.

I appreciate this is a difficult area but as a doctor interested in ethics I am of the opinion that it needs further exploration.”


Hole Ousia


My reply (below) to which I still wait a response from NHS Forth Valley:

Thursday, 24 July 2014

To: Hilary Chalmers,

Lead Freedom of Information Officer,
Information Governance Department,
Colquhoun Street,

Dear Hilary Chalmers,
Ref: FOI0001744

Thank you for your FOI response letter dated 16th July 2014. It is most helpful

This FOI reply has raised areas for which I would appreciate further clarification under the same FOI process.

I note in answer to the first question that NHS Forth Valley has on only two occasions (once in 2012 and once in 2013) “formally” dealt with an employee’s failure to comply with NHS Forth Valley’s Business Conduct Policy which was first issued by NHS Forth Valley 15th October 2007. Given the questions I have raised about transparency and NHS Forth Valley’s compliance with HDL (2003) 62 could you please

  • Under FOI could NHS Forth Valley…

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lawless individuals

Here’s a wee story of “What If”:

What if the locked seclusion room in the locked ward of a psychiatric hospital is being used by nursing staff to forcibly drug and abuse patients and nothing is written about the drugs, the force or the abuse in the records or the notes?

What if the nurse in charge of a locked ward of a psychiatric hospital keeps telling carers and family members of patients in the locked ward that the nursing staff are all about “relationships” when in fact they are more to do with coercion, bullying and intimidation?

What if the acute wards, open and locked, of a psychiatric hospital are places where vulnerable patients are at risk of, and being subject to, sexual exploitation?

What if an NHS health board is allowing and condoning the behaviour and practice of lawless individuals who are employed by them and subject to their policies and procedures.  

Who is responsible?

It absolutely and definitely isn’t the patients, the carers and the family members (or the whistleblowers) who are in any way responsible for system failure and abusive practices.  That’s for sure.


Michael Cornwall Speaks on Helping People in Extreme States with Loving Receptivity

“Michael Cornwall shares from his own lived experience of extreme states
and 35 years of serving people in extreme states as a therapist in
medication-free psychosis sanctuaries and in the community. Michael
addresses this way of being with people in extreme states at
conferences, graduate schools, workshops, and at Esalen Institute. 

Michael is an author at Mad in America ( He can be contacted at his website, What is Madness? (
This video aired on 10/20/2014 in a workshop at the Alternatives
Conference led by Cardum Harmon and Dina Tyler of the Mandala Project.”