Friday, 28 December 2012

complaints processes in psychiatric situations? meaningless

Looking back on 2012 it has been a year, for me, of raising complaints against psychiatric and mental health services in Fife.  At this point in time it seems to have been a meaningless exercise.  Errors and incompetence explained away as learning points and not the system's fault.  Blame laid at the feet of 'mental illness', an all-encompassing term to justify poor/bad practice and an unwillingness to provide true person-centred care.

Seclusion, restraint and forced treatment the 'norm', aligned with the bullying and intimidation of carers who dare to challenge the status quo.  Institutional treatment extending to anyone who doesn't agree with the system and refuses to go along with it.  In other settings this would be unacceptable.  But in psychiatry it's OK and the odd ones out are the non-conformists and human rights activists.

Of course I'm painting a picture of an extreme situation which for me and mine was what happened.  For others it may be less restrictive and more acceptable.  It depends I think on the circumstances and the setting.  But the availability of forced treatment means it can be used and is a choice, for psychiatric staff who are under pressure, or are getting away with it.

Which comes down to intention and reasons for oppression.  They may be in the habit of doing it and prefer to dominate rather than to negotiate.  Less skill required, less effort and the system will collude to provide an escape or excuse for it.  A cover up and a whitewash.  Psychiatric notes used to justify actions rather than reflect truth.  A work of fiction by any other name.

Psychiatric labels that stigmatise and marginalise, reasons for ignoring opinions and reinforcing control.  Mental health act safeguards that aren't always safe and principles that aren't always adhered to.  And a Mental Welfare Commission that should be protecting the rights of people with mental illness and promoting their welfare.

So what does the new year hold?  More of the same?  Well I'm looking for changes and improvements to the psychiatric system and its neighbouring mental health services, in my locality and further afield.  Where the voices of services users, survivors and carers are valued and respected.  Where critical voices are listened to and not excluded from the conversation.  Equality and diversity, of opinion and stance.

A strong, independent user/survivor voice that isn't afraid to say it how it is.  Freedom to demonstrate and protest about human rights issues and abuses in psychiatric and mental health care and treatment.  For otherwise we can't call it care and it isn't person-centred.  An end to oppression and forced treatment, is my new year wish and aim.  Nothing less will do, in my opinion.


  1. What you are saying reflects exactly my experience in the British mental health system but my experience dates from 2008 and I keep hoping that things are improving. I certainly am sure that it is worth working for improvement.
    You are doing a great job.

  2. Anonymous, thanks for your comments. I am always hopeful for improvement and real change, psychiatrically speaking, but I do think it will take a major shift.

    In our experience things have got worse over the last few years. Not sure if this is to do with being in the eye of the storm or about things being 'darkest before the dawn'. Chrys