Saturday, 15 December 2012

critical voices, survivors, speaking out and taking back the power

In Scotland it seems that there is no place for critical voices in mental health, in terms of speaking out and taking back the power.  Not sure why this is.  For in other areas, like community development and socialism, there is room for this and in fact it is expected, in a free and democratic society.  It's what I've always done as a community worker in setting up grassroots projects that bring about empowerment and learning opportunities.  

So for me the mental health activism and engagement is no different from any other area of life.  Except of course that I'm a survivor, of mental ill health and the psychiatric system.  To do this I had to resist the labelling, drugging and lifelong mental illness prognosis.  Which wasn't difficult because I never did believe in any of it, since being a youngster.  I thought it a sham then and my opinion hasn't changed.  I couldn't be true to myself by saying anything different.

Other countries in the UK and Ireland have critical voices in mental health so I'm wondering why it's so frowned upon or not accepted here in my home country?  It's concerning.  That's not to say there aren't critical voices here but I think they keep under the radar, for fear of reprisal or that it may affect their livelihood.  I know what that's like, the backstabbing, badmouthing and attempts to exclude.  It's been interesting, that's for sure.  But I won't be letting it divert me.

I have to speak out because it's what I've always done, and I'm too old to change my ways now.  And I find myself up to my neck in mental health matters with over 40yrs experience of psychiatric system engagement.  Experience that comes in useful, in terms of taking back the power, personally.  It can also help others, as in peer support and demonstrating what is possible when a person has a voice.  By example.

A colleague the other day at a meeting spoke about 'emotional intelligence'.  It's not a phrase I was familiar with so I googled it and came up with this list of attributes, described by Daniel Goleman in 'What makes a leader' (Harvard Business Review, January 2004):
  • self awareness
  • self-regulation
  • motivation
  • empathy
  • social skills
Just the sort of skills and characteristics I think that all of us need who are engaged in critical dialogue with government and the mental health world, speaking out about human rights issues and injustice, with the aim of shifting the balance of power in the psychiatric system.


  1. Chrys you make perfect sense you have the most straightforward description of leadership I have seen in ages. like you I feel all voices need to be heard and so glad you are reminding us of that. I will use this blog to help us in highland

  2. Thanks for commenting Sarah and for your encouragement. All the best in your Highland area, Chrys