Report on Mental Health in Southeast Wales for John Griffiths AM and Jessica Morden MP
I have been a non-consenting patient of southeast Wales’ mental health services since 2nd April 1997. I have almost amassed twenty years of living within this closed mental health system. I write this report with a view to enacting real change for the better for myself and other end users of the mental health services in our area.
Ideally I would like to see the Mental Health Act scrapped in parliament. I feel that it is antiquated and rooted in Victorian Bedlamism.
Psychiatry is not a science. At best it is a pseudoscience. There is little actual medical evidence for most, nearly all mental illnesses. Mental illness, unlike normal illness, cannot be scientifically assessed. If an illness cannot be scientifically diagnosed, how can it be an illness? The blood, body, mind of a schizophrenic is exactly the same as a healthy person. There are no biometric markers that indicate a sickness in someone’s mind. The point is that mental illness is not pathological. Cancer has its markers, as does AIDS. As these illnesses can be scientifically studied and examined, they can also be scientifically treated and hopefully cured. What hope is there for a cure for mental illness if the illness itself cannot be determined scientifically? This point exposes the myth that mental illness is untreatable and cannot be cured. It cannot be cured as it does not exist in the first place. I was given a diagnosis of schizophrenia in 1997. Schizophrenia is apparently an incurable disease. This is not true as it does not exist and I have never suffered the symptoms psychiatrists identify in schizophrenia. For 19 years I have been confident that I have been misdiagnosed and yet I still experience treatment and simply cannot evade the system.
Big Pharma is the driving force behind the mental health industry. For every identified illness there is often expensive treatment available from big global pharmaceutical firms. Drugs companies rarely see their share prices topple and mental health is a very profitable sector. With all this big business and money flying around I often worry about exactly how precise and effective these treatments are. There must be a more ethical means of turning a profit for Big Pharma than mental health drugs, drugs that are often used against the consent of patients.
Treatment against consent is my biggest bugbear in psychiatry. In every branch of medicine the patient has a choice bar psychiatry. If someone falls ill they may choose to consult a healthcare professional or doctor. The doctor can then diagnose illness and offer treatment with a view to curing the illness. At any stage the patient is within his or her rights to refuse the doctor’s advice and to consult elsewhere or simply ignore the treatment. Often illness is an individual matter and if the treatment doesn’t feel right to a patient then why should that patient continue the course of treatment. How many of our medicine cabinets are full of half-used prescriptions of painkillers and antibiotics or the like? In mental health as treatment against consent is condoned and used, patients’ rights are eroded. We move out of a realm of doctors and patients and into a realm of torture and torturer. Treatment against consent is torture plain and simple. It was used in the days of Bedlam, in the Victorian Institutions and has been a cornerstone of the short history of psychiatry and mental hospitals. Yes, some more barbaric, outlandish practices (with no scientific basis) such as lobotomy have been ceased, but treatment against consent continues to this day and with our modern technology and advancements in science chemical lobotomies occur on a daily basis through the use of some of psychiatry’s arsenal. We are talking drugs such as Clozaril, depot injections, Risperidone, Olanzapine.
It is often argued that psychiatrists are dealing with the most disturbed of patients. People always use Peter Sutcliffe in Broadmoor as an extreme example and say how this abhorrent man who has committed abhorrent crimes needs to be treated against his consent. Unfortunately, the vast majority of service users aren’t Peter Sutcliffe, yet they get tarred with the same brush and treatment against consent affects this majority of patients far worse than they do Sutcliffe and other extreme cases. Even in the case of abhorrent psychiatric criminals, these people are human beings with human rights. The choice of treatment and the right to consent to treatment is an absolutely fundamental human right and is part of what separates us as an intelligent species from the animal world. Treatment against consent fosters a concentration camp mentality. It is Nazism, plain and simple, extreme far right use of force to disrupt nature. It is man against the environment in its most absolute ultimate form. Man mistreating other man using torture and chemicals. So much of psychiatry is rooted in eugenics and this is a distant historical archaic fixation that needs to be properly eradicated in order for human society to function properly,
To set this treatment against consent in its context I give you my 19 year case as an extreme example. I have never accepted my diagnosis, nor felt mentally ill. I therefore reject treatment. When under section of the Mental Health Act you lose your right to consent. From Day 1 on my healthcare plan I have been forcibly injected against my consent, with drugs unknown to me and only through experience and research have I discovered what these drugs do. When you refuse tablets in a mental health environment they will turn to injections to guarantee that you take the treatment. They are allowed to use force and in my case have done that or always used the veiled threat of force to get me to take down my trousers so they can inject my thigh or backside. By law, mental health professionals can freely assault, restrain and drug with hardcore, mind and body –altering chemicals with no repercussions. If this happened in a war environment – let’s say Aleppo, there would be international outcry and it would be seen as a war crime, yet it occurs on a daily basis inside British mental hospitals, and worse, with new CTO legislation, also in our communities. Depot injections that I am allergic to have caused me to have a severe hiatus hernia. This makes me projectile vomit all my meals and every morning I start the day puking. It was brought on by depot injections against my consent and the NHS is powerless to stop psychiatrists doing this to me and so my hiatus hernia cannot be treated and cured so I have to live with a permanent disability caused by treatment against consent.
What if treatment against consent was outlawed? It would force the mental health services to adapt greatly. For a start, less emphasis would be on Big Pharma and the medications it produces. We would move away from clinical psychiatry and into the realm of more natural, talking therapies. I’m not saying people should all be freed from mental hospitals, just that the emphasis on drugs would be less. People could choose to be unmedicated and if deemed ill, remain inpatients, but unmedicated ones by choice. When a lay person thinks of a psychiatrist they think that these people sit down and chat with you for hours about your problems and your childhood etc. This is a common misperception. Psychiatrists tend to be just clinical and rely on prescribing drugs. It is psychologists, who aren’t necessarily medically trained, who perform the talking therapies one associates with US Sitcoms and films etc. Psychologists won’t offer you medications. They aren’t doctors so lack prescribing power. They will recommend ways and means of dealing with your problems and often over a period of time will assist you in coping with your problems by identifying root causes and disruptive patterns of behavior. Psychology is a buzz subject academically these days with university departments full, yet try seeing a psychologist on the NHS. You will always find a psychiatrist. They are funded by Big Pharma. I have been on the waiting list to see a psychologist for over ten years. I am deeply embedded in the mental health system with regular hospitalizations yet cannot get to see a psychologist. Aneurin Bevan UHB simply employ too few psychologists and those they do are fully overworked and do not have time for their clientele. The local NHS invest in psychiatry and virtually ignore talking therapies yet it is in these areas where psychiatry and its relevant research are most accurately close to being a proper genuine science. We are supposed to be moving away from clinical mental health environments and towards ‘care in the community’. It is imperative that talking therapies get adequate financial coverage and are accorded a valued place within the therapeutic setup, especially in our local area.
Another great area for improvement locally is another variety of talking therapy in use in mental hospitals, that of occupational therapy. The occupational therapy has as its aim the goal of readying an inpatient for reintegration into the community and outside world. They will work on basic skills, life skills, things one would normally do on the outside and from within a hospital environment an occupational therapist shall aim to get you back to full healthy working order, enough so you can function independently in the real world. Two years ago I met with Judith Paget, Chief Executive, Aneurin Bevan UHB, and in this meeting I emphasized how I disliked the cutbacks that were being made within her system on occupational therapy. To me, as a longstanding mental inpatient, I found the most value in the hospital to be in occupational therapy. Occupational therapy made me feel normal. Whether it be a day trip to the beach, cooking a lunchtime meal for fellow patients, doing a morning crossword or just simple arts and crafts, occupational therapy is vital in an inpatient environment and indeed in out patient aftercare. Yet, consistently over the past twenty years the OT budget has been cut, staff have been laid off and services and end users suffer as a result. On at least three occasions over the past 3 years there has been absolutely zero occupational therapy at all in Talygarn. When you combine the fact that you can’t see a psychologist or engage in other meaningful talking therapies, it seems that the local system is over-reliant on psychiatry and Big Pharma meds. It’s how to pass your time in the hospital system. One aims to be as active as possible and all It seems you can physically do as a patient is sit and smoke cigarettes. It’s no wonder that drug use is becoming ever more prevalent inside mental hospitals as people are genuinely bored and need to occupy their time in some way. Judith Paget incidentally promised to get me in a consultation meeting with the heads of OT for the Trust and to suitably increase funding in their direction. Instead she brushed me aside, ignored her promise and cut back more funds and saved more money by binning OT which she obviously deemed a non-essential luxury.
In general, human rights for mental patients need to be improved. I worry about the scrapping of the human rights Act and how it will affect mental patients. There are a few safeguards I’ve noticed in use in the tribunal courts which do protect certain interests of patients. In general, there is a massive stigma attached to mental illness and perhaps the worst part of being diagnosed and treated is how the community and society change to treating you as an individual. It is a difficult period for patients and their families and friends. This is made worse by the massive stigma and misunderstandings associated with mental health. I think that it all begins with the vast divide between staff and patients within hospital systems. Too many fundamental freedoms and rights are taken away from inpatients. If one is being treated like a subhuman one will feel like a subhuman. Mental hospitals become, not healthcare environments,but punishment centres. They are prisons for the disaffected. Most patients I have spoken to who have experience of both the prison service and mental hospitals actually prefer prisons as they have more freedom there and it is more like normal life inside. They can have jobs and tvs and do what they wish during association hours. Mental hospitals, and you must try visiting Talygarn and St Cadoc’s to see this, are dark and dismal places often threadbare with so little to do for patients. Facilities are dilapidated, often broken and rarely repaired. If mental health is to be treated on a parity with physical health then surely the environment of the hospital can be improved. Rights are taken away. Mobile phones are confiscated, or mobile phone chargers. Cigarette lighters are confiscated. You can’t drink caffeinated coffee. Takeaways are banned. Are these rules fit for patients or fit for prisoners?
As the last twenty years have gone by I have noticed how freedom within the community, within the hospital itself, has slowly been tightened up. Twenty years ago, patients would wake in St Cadoc’s, have a cooked breakfast, do the crossword together in OT, and disappear to Caerleon town to trawl around the pubs all day. You could freely walk around the beautiful countryside grounds and vistors could come and go as pleased. Nowadays, you are more likely to walk onto the ward after some leave, forced to submit to a full body search and have a breathalyzer to test you for any signs of alcohol. Your visitors have to stay outside the entire ward and can only come at certain times. You cannot simply walk out into the grounds for a bit of fresh air. These hospitals are now heavily policed by the staff that have become warders as opposed to nurses. As smoking bans enter the fray, staff can no longer socially smoke with patients and talk about their problems. It adds to further separation between staff and patient and ultimately when the smoking ban is enforced life for an involuntary smoking patient will be a nightmare as they will be forced to quit on the spot and that is unhealthy. If the aim is to get patients into the community they need to be able to have trust built in that community from as early a stage as possible. Mental Health systems should be about lifting barriers, not erecting them. There is enough stigma in the real world without stigma inside the hospital system.
There is a major problem in justice for mental patients. The current tribunal system is very unfair and far too heavily weighted in favor of psychiatrists. For a start one of the three board members of a Tribunal is a psychiatrist. There is an unhealthy backlog of delay in the Tribunal system meaning that you often have to wait several months under treatment (against consent) in hospital following your appeal being lodged prior to the Tribunal sitting. Solicitors are hard pressed and often very impotent in terms of what actual assistance they can give you. The hospitals are full of people living in hope about their appeals yet on average only about 5% of appeals are ever successful for patients. I feel that similar to the criminal justice system, prior to being locked away you should get your chance in front of a court for them to decide if the psychiatrist is right in saying you need to be detained under section. It is only reasonable for this to happen.
Police have become a lot more involved in mental health – Cells are being used to hold patients prior to them being transported to hospital. Often patients’ first contact with services is via the police, police transportation being used instead of ambulances and handcuffs and, worse still, tasers are routinely used on mental patients. The last thing you expect as you enter a healthcare environment is to be shot in the chest by a police marksman. I have been the victim of a taser attack in my own home and it severely traumatised me. Again, are we treating health or is this just a form of social control for disciplining the marginalized and disaffected.
Police have no role in healthcare. When you need to use the police as a patient they will ignore you and they routinely ignore some of the worst crimes perpetuated by staff in mental hospitals. The training of the police re mental health needs to be completely overhauled and they need to distance themselves as a system as a whole from the mental health sector if we are ever to achieve parity between mental and physical healthcare.
Training needs to be revamped and brought into the twenty-first century. Antiquated ideologies need to be erased. I find that most mental health workers appear to have a glazed sense of brainwash about them. They are conditioned into distancing themselves from the mentally ill, into building barriers. They are oversold the pharmaceutical benefits of the drugs and are misled, like doctors, by drug company marketing material, false claims and the vast profits that multi-billion dollar industry generates.
Lastly, does it really need to be said that the system should not be employing criminals. Often psychiatry and the industry attracts some dark people in its workforce. There are far to many with brutal prison-warder type mentalities who get their kicks out of oppressing others. And psychiatrists are not always the sanest and most reasonable people. I was appalled to learn that my psychiatrist of two years had a history of child sex offences. Dr Darryl Watts was employed by Aneurin Bean UHB after spending 30 hours a week surfing child pornography on the internet whilst working as a psychiatrist in Bristol. He was convicted, struck off and the later employed to work in a position of responsibility. He is unfit to judge the sanity of others in my opinion and this is a clear scandal.
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