MARY O'HAGAN

Outrage at compulsory treatment because they got the 'wrong man'

December 28, 2012
Outrage at compulsory treatment because they got the 'wrong man'

On Boxing Day the West Australian reported that a man fitting the description of an escaped patient from Graylands Hospital in Perth was detained at the hospital, given antipsychotic drugs and suffered an adverse reaction which landed him in the general hospital. Click here to see the report. The return of an escaped psychiatric patient or an adverse drug reaction do not usually make the news, except that this time the authorities got the wrong man. The state’s Minister of Mental Health expressed her apologies for the ‘dreadful mistake’ and the Shadow Attorney General described the incident as ‘unlawful assault’.  

Most readers would agree with the politicians’ assessments but their words of concern uncover an implicit consensus that the ‘assault’ would have been justified on the ‘right’ man. That’s because the ‘right’ man had a diagnosis of mental illness and had been placed under the Mental Health Act.   We should always be very suspicious when the state applies different standards to the treatment of different classes of citizen. In this case people believed that the wrong man ought to have been protected from detention and the compulsory administration of potentially harmful drugs but their outrage also underlined that they think these assaults were justified for the ‘right’ man. It doesn't matter to them that the right man may never have committed a crime and obviously did not want to be in the hospital or to take the drugs. 

I await the day when our politicians and professional bodies apologise to all people who have experienced psychiatric ‘assault’ without making the distinction between lawful assault and unlawful assault or between people diagnosed with mental illness and others.  The report on this incident is a depressing reminder that I may be waiting a long time.

 

Democratising Psychiatry

December 2, 2010

Twitter delivered an announcement this week from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RNZAP) proudly stating it had appointed a ‘consumer and carer representative’ to its governing body. The Australians have the irritating habit of tethering consumers and carers with each other in the same way that the song proclaims, ‘love and marriage go together like horse and carriage’.  We all know ‘consumers’ and ‘carers’ are two distinct stakeholder groups whos...


Continue reading...
 

Two Accounts of Mental Distress

November 18, 2010

Many years ago, soon after I got out of the mental health system I applied to see my hospital notes. They arrived, two inches thick, inside some tidy brown folders.

I was shocked. I knew that the psychiatrists’ main interest in me was my psychopathology. I knew they found me frustrating, because their treatments didn’t work and I kept coming back. I knew they were irritated when I questioned their expertise.  But what I don’t know until I read my notes is how little regard they had for...


Continue reading...
 

The end of compulsory treatment

November 2, 2010
Western culture places a high value on freedom of the individual. We only justify the removal of freedoms when citizens transgress or are regarded as not fully human. Since the eighteenth century enlightenment, rationality has become the pinnacle of full humanity. People seen to lack rationality are easily denied full human status and full human freedoms; among them are slaves, women and mad people.  

There is a growing international movement to abolish special legislation allowing compulsory ...
Continue reading...
 

The values of peer support

October 23, 2010

In the last two years I’ve been involved in two reviews of peer support and peer led responses in Canada – one for Ontario (click to download) and the other for the whole of Canada (which has yet to be released by the Mental Health Commission of Canada).

Services run by and for ‘mad’ people have been a small but growing part of the landscape since the 1970s. Peers have supported each other informally since they were first thrown together into the lunatic asylums, and probably even be...


Continue reading...
 

User/survivor leadership

October 12, 2010

Click here to find the full article. 

The international mental health user/survivor movement has been around for nearly 40 years. It started as a protest movement but it has over time become more absorbed into the mental health system. The movement has created leadership opportunities in its independent activities, and the idea of leadership in one’s own recovery, but the policy of service user participation in mental health services has failed to deliver consistent participation, let alon...


Continue reading...
 

The beliefs that drive services

October 6, 2010

The mental health sector, like any other, is crowded with bureaucracy, politics, standards, indicators, jargon, gossip and other day-to-day diversions. In this atmosphere it’s difficult to disentangle oneself enough to burrow down and explore the bedrock of beliefs the mental health system is based upon. These beliefs drive our thoughts and feelings, our behaviour and our systems, but we are often barely aware of them.

Occasionally I get the time to dig down into these bedrock beliefs. I d...


Continue reading...
 

Psychiatric Drugs: The two stories

September 25, 2010

Psychiatric drugs are controversial. There’s the good story and the bad story. In his book ‘Anatomy of an Epidemic’, Robert Whitaker puts it like this: ‘There is a famous optical illusion, and depending how you look at it, you either see a beautiful young woman picture which tells of a revolutionary advance in the treatment of mental disorders. Or you see an old hag picture which tells of a form of care that has led to an epidemic of disabling mental illness.’

When I used mental he...


Continue reading...
 

Is the mental health system crazy?

September 18, 2010

People with major mental distress often suffer multiple personal, social and economic losses. Our personal loss of power and self-esteem does not so much derive from the condition itself, but the attitudes we and others have towards it. We may feel shame. Those around us may feel pity and fear. Our paid helpers often reinforce these responses by pathologising our experience. Once our personal losses have taken hold, a cascade of social and economic losses tends to follow, such as isolation, u...


Continue reading...
 

Thinking about suicide

September 13, 2010
Welcome to my first blog.

David Webb is a friend and colleague as well as a survivor of many suicide attempts. He has recently written 'Thinking About Suicide: Contemplating and comprehending the urge to die.' 

The book is based loosely on David's PhD, the world's first PhD on suicide written by someone who has survived it. It is not an academic book, though David does have a cerebral approach to the issue. He writes of the absence of interest in first person accounts in the suicidology literat...

Continue reading...
 
Subscribe

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

 

This free website was made using Yola.

No HTML skills required. Build your website in minutes.

Go to www.yola.com and sign up today!

Make a free website with Yola