For decades, millions of people around the world have been hurt and let down by governments, drug companies, and by some health professionals who sold us a huge lie: the harm done to us through poverty, neglect and trauma is all in our heads.
Recent books and studies have exposed the methods used to sell ineffective medicines to an unsuspecting public. Some of these drugs actually worsened the conditions they were supposed to treat. And worst of all, those who profited knew they were selling a lie.
Writers and activists currently discussing and writing about the crisis in psychiatry and medicine are a varied group. The activists include survivors of mental health struggles from different backgrounds, carers, and people engaged in mental health roles. Arts and creativity in every medium are often part of the way people learn to cope and move forward.
The writers come from a variety of disciplines which make them well suited for examining different aspects of the crisis in psychiatry & medicine. There are science and society journalists, historians, science anthropologists, critical psychiatrists, geneticists, neuroscientists, and psychologists.
One shared quality amongst the writers is a fascination with and care about the subject of the crisis itself, and what can be said and done about it, and this deeply human engagement with the issue is evident in the ways the writers present their findings and respond to questions by interviewers. That is: there’s a great deal of acceptance of the value of the opinions and work of others, in order to put forward as multi dimensional a picture as can be of the subject they have chosen to write about. Although there are lots of examples of rigorous studies using the special techniques and methods of particular disciplines, the writers who produce such highly specialised work do not seem to be blinkered by their own high level of skill in one or two areas or disciplines. Indeed, most seem interested in reaching out beyond the boundaries of their own skills to see what others also have to offer in creating a multi dimensional picture of the crisis.
In reading about the crisis of psychiatry and medicine, and the inspiring struggles of the varied writers and activists who have done so much to let the world know what is happening, I have come across many examples of the best of humanity and powerful hope for a better future. I have also been reminded of my own history – of struggle, suffering, and recovery.
In 2010, I publicly challenged Iain Duncan Smith, a UK Government Minister, to debate the effects of massive welfare cuts on the poorest people in the country. Smith declined to debate, despite the widespread backing I received from national trade union leaders, disability activists, and public figures including Hollywood actor and fellow Scot Brian Cox. A meeting in Parliament, and my appearances on TV and radio failed to goad the government into debating their welfare cuts.
I became a frontline Welfare Rights Officer in Dundee, where for 10 years myself and colleagues witnessed and sought to alleviate the worst effects of poverty, cuts, and a welfare system unsympathetic to those suffering from physical or mental health conditions.
I survived a mental health breakdown myself, which occurred after a decade of witnessing mass suffering in my home town of Dundee. I recovered, and I now work helping others to survive and thrive. I write a monthly Blog called RAINSHINE. I aim to write more about mental health and the need for health and welfare provision which helps people to live and grow