The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland had declared the IPCU/Ward 4 at Stratheden Hospital, Fife, "unfit for purpose" way before my son was forcibly detained there in February 2012. An old building with different levels, dormitories, a locked seclusion room with a light switch on the outside used as a "naughty step", a front door and a back door (which I was sent to) and staff who were in the habit of rolling their own cigarettes when on duty, in front of the patients.
If the building was unfit
for purpose does this mean to say that the staff were unfit to
practise? Was it and is it possible for psychiatric staff working in a
building that is unfit for purpose to, nevertheless, behave in a fitting
way and with humanity? Can the limitations of the building be blamed
or responsible for dehumanising treatment?
I say no.
There is no excuse for
denying the basic human rights of locked-in psychiatric patients. We
live in a democratic and developed country where even prisoners have
their rights protected. The Mental Health Act for Scotland has a number
of safeguards in place that are meant to protect the rights of people
with a mental disorder under the Act. The Mental Welfare Commission is a
And yet, despite knowing
what our rights were, my son and I fought to be heard and to be treated
with respect, by the psychiatric nurses in the Stratheden IPCU. I had
to advocate for my son at meetings and was told by the RMO (registered
medical officer, a consultant forensic psychiatrist) that people without
capacity don't require advocacy. This RMO kept trying to speak with my
son without an advocate being present.
My son was locked in the
seclusion room, overnight for hours at a time, with no toilet or water
to drink, the light switch flicked on and off at random. He was
forcibly injected in this same room with haloperidol which caused him to
lose balance whereupon he was castigated. I had to remind staff of
procyclidine for side effects. I was both his carer and named person,
and for neither was I given the due respect of the roles.
The Mental Health Officer
aligned herself with the psychiatric professionals and even offloaded
her own personal story of a family member in a psychiatric locked ward
for over a year, to my son and I at a meeting in the community after he
was discharged. Which caused a lot of upset for my son. A complaint I
made to Fife Council Social Work got the response that it was a
"learning point" for the MHO.
Fife Council Adult
Protection team investigated my complaint about my son's treatment in
Stratheden and tried to blame me for causing "psychological harm" when
my son was having his basic human rights denied in the IPCU. No toilet,
no water to drink and no pen to write with. My character was
investigated and the lead investigator, a Fife Council social worker and
MHO, along with my son's MHO, questioned a psychiatrist and CPN about
Trying to blame a mother for system failure, a building unfit for purpose and staff unfit to practise.
Then last week at a
mental health focus group meeting I had to sit there while a Fife
Council Adult Protection worker handed round various promotional
materials - fridge magnet, spectacle cloth, notepads, pens, mirror,
keyring - which had the adult protection logo on it. Many of the
service users at this group will have been subject to forced treatment
in psychiatric settings where adult protection investigations are on the
side of the oppressors.
Rubbing our noses in it.
Such is the state of
affairs in Fife where "meaningful involvement" in mental health matters
is nothing of the kind. It continues to be a tick-box, tokenistic and
tedious undertaking. The powers that be have no intention of letting go
the reigns or of letting folk with lived experience in to the
decision-making agendas. It's still a cosmetic exercise and we still
have no independent advocacy in Fife. In my opinion.
It will require a paradigm shift, an about turn.