I believe that strong user/survivor involvement in mental health is key to bringing about balance to psychiatric treatment and ensuring that human rights issues are kept to a minimum. Realistically it will be impossible to get rid of all issues when there is restraint, seclusion and forced treatment. It lends itself to abuse by its very nature.
I use the word strong to describe involvement that isn't tokenistic but is where the users and survivors are equal partners at the table when decisions are being made. In my experience this is not an easy thing to do. In fact I have rarely seen it happen in mental health land. And think it is something to be aspired to.
It's all about power, the keeping of it and the taking of it. As an activist I see my role as rattling the cages of power, using my own power and resisting the fallout. A balancing act. Over 30 years of community development activity has been a useful apprenticeship. Seeing the end from the beginning. Running with ideas, putting them into action and moving on.
Mary O'Hagan, NZ thought leader on service user perspectives, led a workshop for us at Peer Support Fife on service user participation and leadership (more info on News Archive page). Funded by Fife statutory agencies and held in St Andrews, Fife, March 2011. Mary spoke of the seismic shifts needed to bring about improvement - the four 'P's - philosophical, psychological, power, practical. With an emphasis on peer run services, collaborative practice and community governance.
The new mental health strategy in Scotland supports person-centred health and care - "Mutually beneficial partnerships between patients, their families and those delivering healthcare services which respect individual needs and values and which demonstrate compassion, continuity, clear communication and shared decision-making.". Which translates into involvement and participation that has weight and power and strength. In my opinion.