[on Mad in America 12 December 2012]
going to be a year of protest, for me, demonstrating against the psychiatric
system. In particular, speaking out about the psychiatric drugging of
women and children, forced treatment, ECT/electroshock and brain surgery for
mental illness. 'Bringing in the heavies at the perinatal psychiatry
conference' is a recent blog post about participating in the Speak Out Against
Psychiatry demo in London, speaking out against the psychiatric
drugging and shocking of women and children. Joining with fellow women in
solidarity and being encouraged in the process. Society at large does
need to become more aware of what's happening in the mental health world.
It affects all of us.
I've had a go at joining local and national
groups from the user/survivor/carer perspective but no matter how hard I
try it seems like I am only a token participant,
ticking a box and there to make up the numbers. For it isn't about
being equal, the playing field isn't level, rather it's an ongoing
battle to be heard and to be respected. It would be different if I
agreed with the regime and fell into line. Which of course is what
psychiatry prefers us to do. Especially if we have been through the
system and out the other side, under our own steam (or power).
I had to taste it and see, testing the waters of user involvement and
participation, to see if there was room for manoeuvre, opportunities to
influence and shift perceptions. Instead it has seemed that the more I
try to be myself, the more I am silenced. And matters came to a head in
a recent meeting where notes
were taken, ironically by a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and my
voice was completely ignored. As if the words I spoke at the meeting
weren't heard because I wasn't a 'professional'. Overlooked and
So for me, looking back on 2012, it has been an interesting year.
Engaging again, face to face, with the psychiatric system and its
power, as a survivor, carer, advocate and peer supporter. At the same
time engaging cerebrally with psychiatric workers at meetings and
events. Challenging the lack of independent advocacy, the use of restraint and seclusion, the label of severe and enduring mental illness, and the issues around mental health acts and protecting rights. When safeguards aren't safe and carers aren't respected.
am more convinced than ever of the need for alternative ways of working
with people in psychosis or mental distress. Something other than
psychiatric drugs and forced treatment. Where clinical psychology can
come off the fence and join with psychodynamic approaches. Where peer
support has power and isn't a political tool. Where advocacy is
independent and free to stand with the person. And recovery means what
it says, is free from government control and is a passport to a better
However, a word of caution, regarding the challenge to the
epidemic of psychiatric drug prescribing and gatekeeping of general
practitioners. We don't want ECT and brain surgery to be on the
increase as less drugs are prescribed. The neuroscientists waiting in
the wings to practise their experimental surgery, or Neurosurgery for
Mental Disorder (NMD), not lobotomies but anterior cingulotomies,
anterior capsulotomies and subcaudate tractotomies (see Mind website on NMD). In Scotland it is called the Advanced Interventions Service,
based at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, and claims to be one of over 70
national services in Scotland like, for example, breast screening or
Don't let us underestimate the various
strategies required to bring about a shift in the balance of power,
psychiatric system wise. For some of us it will mean working from within,
others a rearguard action, and maybe even doing both at the same time.
A few of us are meeting the challenges face on in a variety of ways,
seizing opportunities as they arise. The snakes and ladders of activism and engagement,
or the games people play. When the doing of it can be as rewarding as
the outcome or end result. But we are in it to see change and this is
why we are speaking out about it, in words and in actions.