Wednesday, 12 September 2012

conflicts of interest, user survivor involvement and human rights in mental health

I am very clear that conflicts of interest in user survivor mental health involvement need to be kept to a minimum.  So that the voices of people in the psychiatric system are heard and their human rights protected.  Otherwise the blurring of boundaries and roles may result in an abuse of power and a failure to stand up for people who are at risk of legal coercion and traumatic treatment.

Let me unpack this a bit.  I am not saying that people in positions of power, whether civil servants or otherwise, are deliberately denying the rights of the mentally ill.  Or that the user involvement groups are conspiring or colluding with the powers that be.  But that the potential for human rights abuse in psychiatric care means that the voices of experience should be as independent as possible.  To be free to speak up and speak out, to challenge the decision makers and the psychiatric establishment.

Powerful voices of lived experience can bring balance to a psychiatric system that is still forcibly medicating or drugging its patients.  Grabbing and jagging I call it.  Having been grabbed and jagged myself.  It's not pleasant but it has to be said.  Calling it rapid tranquilisation doesn't make it feel any better if you're on the receiving end of the needle.  Take my word for it.  And I still don't feel OK about it.

Of course I'm looking forward to a time when force in psychiatry is not required.  When there are real alternatives to psychiatric drugs for mental distress and a choice of therapeutic input.  We're not there yet and it seems a long way off, when the only option is a neuroleptic in a crisis that can be more trouble than it's worth, in the long term.  And psychiatric labels that stick like glue and come back to haunt you in the notes that others wrote about you.

(I use italics for words that I don't particularly like or agree with but are in common use)

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