Peer Support Fife started in January 2008, promoting peer support and peer led alternatives in mental health. In response to need we progressed to promoting and supporting survivor, user and carer participation and leadership in service design and delivery. Lack of funding support led to the organisation ceasing active participation in November 2012. Our website continues as a news resource and archive.


It began with Peer Support and now I'm a Writer, Activist and Campaigner

Chrys Muirhead was invited by the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Foundation Trust's Peer Led Recovery Project to be keynote speaker - expert from out of town - at their Peer-Led Recovery Project event 'Peer Support: How do we make it part and parcel of all our mental health services?'. It was held on 18 July 2013 in the new Maudsley Ortus Learning Centre, an impressive building and useful resource. The debate and discussion included a peer support learning network proposal.

'It began with Peer Support and now I'm a Writer, Activist and Campaigner' was the presentation title, although I diverted from the script at points and went over time (apologies Penelope). There were over 100 peers at the lunch and discussions. It was good to catch up with various folks, including some who had attended our Peer Support Fife Sharp Edge event. I'd flown down and back on the day, catching the train to Denmark Hill and walking through the Maudsley Hospital grounds, in a heatwave. Managed to grab a tea break in the morning at St Paul's, walking in the shade from Farringdon station via Smithfield Market, getting lost on the way.

Other speakers were Simon Rayner, head of Pathway at SLaM who'd organised the trip of 11 SLaM folk to Fife in 2011, and Gabrielle Richards, head of OT and lead for social inclusion, who spoke about the SLaM Recovery College.

Lomond Ward internal redesign, my plan sent 17 October 2012 - no response

Here is the plan I devised for redesigning the inside of Lomond Ward, Stratheden, so that female patients could be separate from male patients in their sleeping areas, and keep some degree of privacy.

I also proposed more activity rooms for patients and areas for psychological therapies, WRAP, Peer Support and groupwork."

I sent the plan off to senior NHS Fife managers on 17 October 2012, here is an excerpt from the Email:

"I have attached a rough plan of proposed changes to Lomond Ward that will improve the female patient experience and make the ward safer for them. And thereby have a positive impact on all patients. I believe that if the female patients are looked after well then everyone will be better off. I say this as a former Lomond patient, feeling very unsafe in the end dormitory overlooked by males in single rooms. I also speak from the experience of a carer who has visited the ward on many occasions over a 17yr period, since 1995, when my oldest son was an inpatient.

I have also proposed changing other rooms, to make more space for patients and staff to interact with each other, building relationships and promoting recovery. As a member of the new Fife patient safety group I wanted to make a positive, initial contribution.

Read Complete Blog Post

"'Excessive' use of face-down restraint in mental health hospitals" - BBC News Article

"The government is considering a ban on the use of face-down restraint in English mental health hospitals. The move follows figures which show the controversial technique being used hundreds of times a year in some trusts - a level described by a health minister as "shocking" and apparently "excessive".

Research by the mental health charity Mind finds that some mental health trusts no longer use face-down restraint because it is considered too dangerous and traumatic. But figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that two mental health trusts employ the procedure two or three times a day."

Video showing demonstration of face-down restraint

If Only ... Poem by Scottish Friend

"If only you knew how it feels...
To go in as a voluntary admission
Because you knew all you needed was sleep
And then, as if in your worst nightmare,
Find out that you can’t get out.
To be imprisoned, confined and incarcerated.
To be pinned to the bed by medication.
To ingest so much quetiapine, haloperidol,
Risperadol, lorazepam, diazepam, seroquel
That you begin to lose yourself.
If only you knew how that felt.

If only you knew how it feels...
To be labelled “presenting as dishevelled”
When your hair is the maddest thing about you.
To be threatened by other patients
When you won’t drink their stolen vodka.
To take the hairdryer cord from your friend’s
Neck and be sent to your room for interfering.
To be given all the drugs the pharmaceuticals
Can offer (provided you queue like a good girl)
But be deprived of the one thing you need -
Someone to listen.
If only you knew how that felt.
... Read complete poem"


Background photo of St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, courtesy of Daniel Muirhead

*Website best viewed on Firefox*

Past Events, Information

November 2012

UCC November Conference Presentations

The conference 'Critical Perspectives and Creative Responses to Experiences of Trauma and Distress' was held on 14 & 15 November 2012 in University College Cork.

Keynote speakers at this free event included Jacqui Dillon, national Chair of the Hearing Voices Network, Richard Patterson, Advocate and Activist, Phil Thomas, Academic and former Consultant Psychiatrist; Eleanor Longden, Voice hearer and Writer, Dirk Corstens, Social Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist.
Presentations from speakers.

Second Story Peer Respite House Blog Post

"Second Story Respite House, Santa Cruz, California, is a short-stay, sleeps six, voluntary opportunity to learn to use relationships to move out of old roles and patterns. Staffed by peers (people with lived experience of mood swings, consuming fear, voices, visions,…) who have learned to be with some discomfort, the household provides an opportunity to experience what change feels like, to learn new responses through relationships with each other."

Blog post Breaking Someone Out of the Behavioral Health Unit on Mad in America.

"She came to us like a breath of fresh air; cheerful, passionate, beautiful, and always looking out for others to her own detriment. We had conversations. “Be a little selfish” I said, “It’s OK to look after yourself” – and this was before I knew of the pain in her past. Tragedies, both personal and familial were scattered through her life – more than most could bear, more than many could survive. There is a tangible energy to her, a will to live, a drive to get the most that she can out of every moment. Not surprising from someone who is, so far, a cancer survivor. Very surprising for someone who has been abandoned so frequently."

Video link to Second Story and its work. See the National Empowerment Center, USA, for more information on crisis alternatives.

October 2012

Pat Bracken Video on the Crisis in Psychiatry

at the Forum for Existential Psychology and Therapy

"Psychiatrist Pat Bracken speaks on the current "crisis of legitimacy in psychiatry" and the growth of the international service user movement at the Forum for Existential Psychology and Therapy in June. The root cause of the crisis is not attributable to psychopharmacology or "a few mistakes in the DSM" that more research would get right, Dr Bracken argues; the root cause lies deep in the dominant paradigm; a "modernist" agenda to frame all human problems in scientific and technological terms. Dr. Bracken supports a post-modernist view; an understanding of the limitations and dangers of such an approach, and accepting that some human problems will not be solved by science and technology, and that mental health is such a problem."

"psychiatry came into the world on the back of an act of social exclusion ... original sin already built in"

See video link from Mad in America website.

September 2012

"How do we protect authentic peer support from the threat of professionalisation?"

Article on Recovery Wirral website by Anne Beales, Together

"As peer support models are increasingly adopted by mainstream mental health services, Anne Beales [21/9/12], Director of Service User Involvement at mental health charity Together argues that the formation of ‘good practice’ guidelines is essential to ensure the survival of authentic, user-led peer support and to safeguard it from being used as a form of cheap labour.

I lost my personality on a train once. It got on the train that day and left me behind. I waited for hours on the platform, but it didn’t come back. It was the Transport Police who moved me on and out of the station.

I was telling this story to my hairdresser Vicky last week. Well, it beats talking about my holiday plans. Yet, it has taken me years to get to a point where I have processed that terrifying episode and can talk about it at all, let alone laugh; that terrible time when I fell apart, not knowing what was illusion and reality, sleep or dreaming. As well as being my hairdresser Vicky actually has her own mental health stories to share. She is my peer, and just one of many precious people who helped me back on my feet."
Read complete article

August 2012

First, Do No Harm

Confronting the myths of psychiatric drugs

by Phil Barker and Poppy Buchanan-Barker 2012, Nursing Ethics

The enduring psychiatric myth is that particular personal, interpersonal and social problems in living are manifestations of 'mental illness' or ‘mental disease’, which can only be addressed by 'treatment' with psychiatric drugs. Psychiatric drugs are used only to control ‘patient’ behaviour and do not ‘treat’ any specific pathology in the sense understood by physical medicine. Evidence that people, diagnosed with 'serious' forms of 'mental illness' can 'recover', without psychiatric drugs, has been marginalized by drugfocused research, much of this funded by the pharmaceutical industry. The pervasive myth of psychiatric drugs dominates much of contemporary 'mental health' policy and practice and raises discrete ethical issues for nurses who claim to be focused on promoting or enabling the 'mental health' of the people in their care."
Read Paper

Scottish Recovery Network is featuring this paper on their website where a dialogue is beginning.

July 2012

BBC News Article on Fitness-to-work Benefit Assessments

'Reviewer of fitness-to-work benefit tests to stand down' article from BBC News, 30 July 2012.

"Critics have said the large number of decisions overturned on appeal show the process is flawed and that tests are too impersonal, not medically rigorous enough and the fluctuating nature of some conditions is not sufficiently taken into account."

And BBC programme 'Panorama: Disabled or Faking It?': "Panorama investigates the government's plans to end the so-called 'sick note culture' and their attempts to get millions of people off disability benefits and into work. In Britain's modern welfare state, millions are being paid to private companies to assess sick and disabled claimants but is the system working? Or are new tests wrongly victimising those who deserve support the most?"

April 2012

Video of Robert Whitaker Lecture, Cupar, Fife, November 2011

Robert Whitaker, USA author of Anatomy of an Epidemic, gave a public lecture in Elmwood College, Cupar, Fife, on 19 November 2011 - see Video of event.

"According to conventional histories of psychiatry, the arrival of Thorazine in asylum medicine in 1955 kicked off a 'psychopharmacological revolution' Yet, since 1955, the disability rate due to mental illness in the United States has risen more than six-fold. Moreover, this epidemic of disabling mental illness has accelerated since 1987, when Prozac - the first of the "second-generation" drugs - arrived on the market. This increase in disability is also being seen in other countries that have embraced the use of psychiatric drugs: Canada, UK, Ireland, Iceland, Australia and New Zealand, among others. A review of the long-term outcomes literature for psychiatric medications reveals why this is so. The 'medical model' paradigm of care, which emphasises continual use of psychiatric medications, is a failed paradigm, and needs to be dramatically re-thought." Robert Whitaker

Prof Phil Barker and Poppy Buchanan-Barker, who live in Fife and were born and raised here, opened and closed our event. Their Tidal Model "helps people reclaim the personal story of mental distress, by recovering their voice. By using their own language, metaphors and personal stories people begin to express something of the meaning of their lives. This is the first step towards helping recover control over their lives".

March 2012

Giving Psychosis a Voice Conference

A one-day conference 'Giving Psychosis a Voice 2' was held on Thursday 8 March 2012 at Dunston Hall, Norwich - understanding the experiences that have come to be called psychosis can allow people the opportunity to talk about them in relation to their lives. This event followed on from the 2010 international conference, where they explored how finding meaning in psychosis could be a fundamental way of challenging stigma. Themes for the 2012 event included: managing distress, trauma, recovery, formulation, latest research regarding psychosis and working with people's creativity.


  • Dirk Corstens - Social Psychiatrist & Psychotherapist, LavOri, Maastricht
  • Rachel Waddingham - London Hearing Voices Project Manager
  • Eleanor Longden - Intervoice Scientic Board Co-ordinator
  • Jacqui Dillon - Chair of the UK Voice Hearers' Network
  • Phil Barker - Visiting Professor, Trinity College Dublin and Honorary Professor, University of Dundee
  • Lucy Johnstone - Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Cwm Ta Health Board
  • Rufus May - Clinical Psychologist - Bradford Assertive Outreach Team
  • Robin Murray - Professor of Psychiatric Research at the Institute of Psychiatry

    See Conference Presentations

    February 2012

    The Manifesto of a Noncompliant Mental Patient - Aubrey Ellen Shomo

    Diagnosed with a psychotic disorder at eight years old, transgendered essayist Aubrey Ellen Shomo (born Justin Michael Shomo) would spend most of the next decade on neuroleptic medication - over her vocal objections - and would be hospitalized repeatedly. Upon reaching adulthood, furious with the treatment she received for so long and her own powerlessness in the face of it, she became a psychiatric survivor activist.

    "I see it everywhere: People with mental illness need medication. It sounds reasonable.
    Today, there are even political organizations that seek to make it easy to force a person to take it.
    It's easy to look at another and assume things like that. It's human. After all, it's compassionate to help someone who isn't able to ask for help, right? They'll thank you in the long run, won't they?
    No one asks why their child, or sibling or friend refuses to take their meds. Why bother? It's an illness. It's meaningless. The doctors say so. They know these things.
    Have you ever questioned the logic of the phrase "She wouldn't be refusing medication if she wasn't ill"?
    I am a noncompliant mental patient. I have been for years. I beg you. Ask why.
    Look into my eyes and see me. Try to understand where I'm coming from. Even a crazy person has a human will.
    I am someone's sibling, someone's child, and someone's friend. I could be yours ....

    This essay was first published in Open Minds Quarterly, Spring 2007 Issue.
    Read Complete Essay

    The management of violence in general psychiatry

    'The management of violence in general psychiatry' by Sophie E. Davison, Advances in Psychiatric Treatment (2005), vol 11, 362-370:

    "Abstract - There is increasing concern about the level of violence within mental healthcare settings. In this article I review what is known on this subject, discuss the relationship between mental disorder and violence and summarise the different ways to prevent and manage violence. When planning strategies to prevent violence in such settings it is important to consider not only patient risk factors but also risk factors in the environment. Staff need to have all the possible techniques for managing violent behaviour available to them in order to weigh up the risks and benefits for any specific patient in any particular situation."

    Read Article

    September 2011

    Sharp Edge Event Goes Well

    Photo, right to left, Shery Mead, Chris Hansen, Karen Taylor, Ron Coleman, Jacquie Nicholson.

    Many thanks to everyone who took part in the dialogue event on peer led crisis alternatives - At the Sharp Edge - on Tuesday 20 September 2011 in the Carnegie Conference Centre, Dunfermline. Peer Support Fife and SAMH (scottish association for mental health) hosted the occasion and over 70 delegates joined us on the day. We welcomed guest speakers Shery Mead and Chris Hansen, USA, Ron Coleman and Karen Taylor, Scotland, of Working to Recovery Ltd, Fiona Venner, manager of the Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service, Jacquie Nicholson, Manager of the Edinburgh Crisis Centre and Jan Cameron, Manager of Redhall Walled Garden.

    See Poster and Programme

    June 2011

    Billy Wallace is now at Lands End!

    21 June - Day 19 Billy has completed his John O'Groats to Lands End bike ride - well done Billy! see map
    21 June - Day 18 Billy's now at Truro and tomorrow Land's End - Rock on Billy!
    21 June - Day 17 arrived safely at Plymouth and a good ride today - looking forward to Truro tomorrow
    18 June - Day 15, arrived safely at Exeter via some 'berry dale' braes, 1 in 10 gradients - wow! - brilliant bath last night and a day off next
    17 June - Day 14, arrived OK at Shepton Mallet, 10mls south of Bristol - heading for Exeter next, all the best Billy!
    16 June - Day 13, arrived at Gloucester and is feeling really proud! - Billy thanks everyone for their support
    15 June - Day 12, arrived at Bridgnorth and having a good rest - Gloucester tomorrow
    14 June - Day 11, Preston to Liverpool went well, heavy rain to Runcorn but cleared on way to Chester - eating lots and resting as often as he can
    13 June - Day 10 Billy has reached Kendal and is "feeling great!" - tomorrow off to Preston
    9 June - Day 6 at Kilmaurs "settling in great" - tomorrow to Thornhill then a day of rest
    8 June - Day 5 at Arrochar by the side of Loch Lomond
    7 June - Day 4 at Ballachulish - good luck Billy!
    5 June - Day 2 at Invergordon - feet up!

    Our friend Billy Wallace from Tynron in Dumfries & Galloway started his marathon bike ride from John O'Groats to Lands End on 4 June to promote mental health awareness and well being, challenging stigma and raising money for the charity Support in Mind Scotland. Billy has supported many of our events by coming to Fife and taking part in workshops and training around peer support, recovery and service user involvement. He is a passionate believer in the benefits of peer support and demonstrates this by sharing his 'lived experience' with others on a voluntary basis in his home area and through the Kaleidoscope project in Dumfries.

    May 2011

    Visit to Leeds

    Ross Hatten and Chrys Muirhead recently journeyed by train to Leeds, visiting Dial House - home of the Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service - and meeting with Bradford Soteria Network members. The main work is done out of hours with a phone helpline on evenings and a drop-in service at weekends until 2am. Families in crisis are welcome and many visitors are helped to cope with crisis, suicidal thoughts and self harm. More information about this project from their website -

    Chrys and Ross also met with Soteria Network members Jen Kilyon and Theresa Smith - carers and activists who have worked tirelessly with many others to "promote progressive approaches to people experiencing extreme states, distress, 'breakdown' or 'psychosis'"and to fundraise for a Soteria House in the UK. See more info on website -

    April 2011

    Mary O'Hagan Leads Us Well!

    Thanks to Mary O'Hagan for a superb masterclass for managers and workshop for stakeholders in St Andrews, Fife, on 28 March, also thanks to all the folks who joined us from Fife and many areas of Scotland. Thanks to Roseanne Fearon, Head of Adult Services, Social Work Service, Fife Council, for opening our event. Thanks to John Sawkins for his poetry recitation and book reading. There were many opportunities for learning and networking - a day to remember.

    See Feedback Report and Mary's Powerpoint Presentation.

    Mary O'Hagan's experience includes being an initiator of the service user movement in New Zealand, the first chair of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, an advisor to the United Nations and World Health Organization, and a Mental Health Commissioner for New Zealand. Mary is presently an international speaker, consultant and writer, and a thought leader on service user perspectives.

    More information on Mary's websites:

    March 2011

    London and Ireland Visits

    Chrys Muirhead, PS Fife Convener, has recently travelled to London and Ireland to hear and meet innovative international speakers on mental health topics (self funded trip):

  • Goldsmiths College, University of London, was the venue for the UK film premiere of Mere Folle, crazy mother movie, based on the book History Beyond Trauma by Francoise Davoine and Jean-Max Gaudillierre. The Parisian authors are psychoanalysts who have worked with people in crisis for over 30 years and hold advanced degrees in the classics - French, Latin and Greek literature - and doctorates in sociology.

  • Robert Whitaker, American investigative reporter and author, was speaking at Athlone Institute, Ireland - a presentation on the findings reported in his new book Anatomy of an Epidemic. Bob laid before us the evidence about psychiatric drugs and their propensity to create chronicity in the long term. There was an opportunity to ask questions and to meet up with Irish colleagues who are establishing a Network of Critical Voices in Mental Health.

    More information about these books on the Books, Articles   page.

    Solution Focused Approaches Workshop Appreciation

    Thanks to Steve Smith, Lecturer at Robert Gordon University, for facilitating the workshop on Solution Focused Approaches at Cupar on 28 February and 1 March. And thanks to folks who participated in this event and found it to be a very useful tool in both their own recovery and in helping others to keep well.

  • Read about solution focused interactions on the RGU website
  • information about the Module Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SCQF Level 9)
  • and the follow-on Module Application of Solution Focused Brief Therapy to Practice.

    SCVO Gathering Workshop Thanks

    Peer Support Fife thanks all the people who participated at our workshop Having a Voice and Making a Difference at The Gathering, Scottish Council for Voluntary Sector's national event in the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Wednesday 23 February 2011. It was good to share stories of mental health involvement and the challenges faced in being involved.

    February 2011

    Latest Tidal Newsletter

    The February edition of the Tidal Newsletter from Phil Barker and Poppy Buchanan-Barker is out:
    "All the stories featured in this issue of the Newsletter address reclamation, in one form or another. Each story reminds us of the personal nature of reclamation: taking back something which has a particular meaning for the person."

    There is an article about our Cupar Tidal workshop on pages 5 and 6, also news and stories from Fife - Scotland, Ottawa - Canada, and Sydney - Australia.

    Prof Phil Barker's latest book - Mental Health Ethics - is described with reviews from the Amazon website

    PS Fife February News Bulletin

    Breaking news from our latest Newsletter:

  • Robert Whitaker, American investigative reporter and author of Anatomy of an Epidemic, visits Ireland and England

  • RD Laing, Scottish psychiatrist and psychotherapist, and founder of the Philadelphia Association

  • more photos from our Tidal workshop in Cupar, Fife, with Phil and Poppy

  • the latest Pathways book 'The Trail is the Thing' from the team at Kansas University - write up on the Books, Articles   page

    January 2011

    Tidal Model Workshop is very much appreciated!

    On 20 & 21 January 2011 Phil Barker and Poppy Buchanan-Barker skilfully captained a workshop over 2 days in Cupar, Fife - a journey through the Tidal Model with ports of call on the way. The recruits set sail on a voyage of discovery, having made their way from the north and the south, becoming more than participants as they considered solutions. The realisation dawned on us that, although we were travellers together, it was up to each of us to carry our own load, to be strengthened for the journey and to encourage others to do the same.

    Our photo shows some of the crew and the good fun we all had!

    Thanks to Phil and Poppy for an informative and thought-provoking experience, and to everyone who took part and expecially to those who were there to the finish. A flavour of the comments:
    "I had a ball listening and speaking with everyone"
    "Phil and Poppy were great to listen to ... very inspiring!"
    "I had a great time and the group there was excellent

    December 2010

    December News Bulletin

    Read all about it in our latest newsletter, including:

  • articles on Narrative Therapy and Solution Focused Approaches - here is a link to more information on the Alice Morgan book 'What is Narrative Therapy?':

  • the Soteria Project and its founder Dr Loren Mosher

  • a website about Freedom Of Information (FOI) and our rights - It's Public Knowledge - the Scottish Information Commissioner enforces and promotes Scotland's FOI laws

    November 2010

    25 November Workshop Thanks

    Thanks to the 13 of us who braved the wintry weather, coming from Dumfries, Dundee, Perth and other parts of Fife to share information and experiences at our 3rd user carer involvment workshop in Cupar which had a focus on acute inpatient care. The guest speaker was Carolyn Little, Project Co-ordinator, User Carer Involvement Dumfries & Galloway.

    October 2010

    29 October Workshop Thanks

    Thanks to everyone who came along and participated in our user carer involvement workshop on Friday 29 October 2010 in Cupar Old Parish Centre. There were 26 of us taking part, including guest speakers from the Highland Users Group - Graham Morgan and a HUG member who travelled from Skye, and friends from Dumfries, Glasgow, Falkirk, Crieff, Perth and Dundee. Read Graham's Talk and 29 October workshop report.

    This event followed on from our Mary O'Hagan workshop in May, see 14 May feedback report, and we explored the resources, training and networks that enable the involvement of users and carers in mental health service planning and provision.

    September 2010

    The Triangle of Care: Carers Included

    The Triangle of Care - Carers Included: A Best Practice Guide in Acute Mental Health Care was launched at a reception at the House of Commons on July 28th. The publication is the result of collaboration between The Princess Royal Trust for Carers (PRTC) and The National Mental Health Development Unit (NMHDU) and the title refers to the essential 3-way relationship between professionals, service users, their carers and families. The guide emphasises the need for better local strategic involvement of carers and families in the care- planning and treatment of people experiencing mental ill-health and calls for better partnership working between service users, their carers and providers of services in order to achieve the best possible outcomes.

    August 2010

    SQA Peer Support PDA Link

    Here is the link on the SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) website to the documents relating to the Mental Health Peer Support PDA (professional development award) - The Arrangements document gives various information about the rationale for the award's development, aims, delivery, learning materials etc.

    The 2 new unit specifications for the Mental Health Peer Support PDA (professsional development award) - Recovery Context and Developing Practice - are Higher National (HN) units and can be undertaken individually. The learning/teaching materials are being written and the award was launched in August.

    It is encouraging to note the referencing of the strengths model pioneered at the University of Kansas and Shery Mead's website

    Buckhaven Peer Support Workshop

    Thanks to everyone who attended our recent PS Workshop in Buckhaven Community Centre funded by the Kirkcaldy & Levenmouth Local Mental Health Partnership. Chrys Muirhead facilitated and was supported by a volunteer who lives in the Levenmouth area. It was encouraging to welcome friends from Fife, Glasgow, Dumbarton and Dumfries, many of them people who are working in a peer support role and promoting the model in their areas. The sharing of experience and information was positive for everyone present.

    May 2010

    Mary O'Hagan Workshop Went Well!

    Over 40 delegates took part in our user/carer involvement workshop with Mary O'Hagan, NZ, faciliating, on 14 May 2010 in the Cupar Old Parish Centre - 'having a voice and making a difference!'. Friends joined us from the Dundee, Perth and Falkirk areas, sharing experiences of involvement from a service user and carer perspective. Mary spoke of her own experiences using services and of being a leader with others in the planning and provision of services, challenging tokenism and setting agendas rather than fitting in with decisions already made. It is hoped to have follow-up meetings, an opportunity to encourage and share experience(s).

    See Mary's website and 14 May Feedback Report.

    Caledonia Clubhouse Falkirk Visit

    The visit arranged to the Caledonia Clubhouse in Falkirk went well, visitors were inspired by the member-led model and asked lots of appropriate questions. Thanks to Alison Ferguson, Manager, and her team for their warm welcome and hosting the visit. There were comments about how they could not differentiate between members and paid workers, the benefits of the open door policy where people can access all areas of the Clubhouse and how everyone takes part in activities, from reception work to preparing meals to learning IT skills and having a work placement or transitional employment. Here is a link to My Clubhouse Journey, an inspiring story of hope and recovery from Annette Callow, a member of the Caledonia Clubhouse, Falkirk.

    March 2010

    Promoting Inclusion Workshop

    Funding from Fife Council and NHS Fife enabled PS Fife to host a Promoting Inclusion Workshop on 10 & 11 March 2010 in the Council Chambers, Town House, Kirkcaldy - see Poster. We invited Peter Bates, Head of Mental Health and Community Inclusion at the National Development Team for Inclusion, to facilitate. Peter wrote With Inclusion in Mind, the local authority's role in promoting wellbeing and social development. In November 2008 Fife Council held an event to introduce this guidance, attended by local representatives from mental health groups, also facilitated by Peter Bates. Chrys Muirhead had presented at this event on her experience of recovery and getting back into the community.

    Peer Support Workshops February, March in Contact Point Kirkcaldy

    We held Peer Support workshops in Contact Point, Kirkcaldy on 17 February and 24 March 2010. Topics included the role of PS, definitions of recovery, benefits to those in the PS relationship and boundaries/risks. Thanks to Billy Moyes, Contact Point, for the use of their meeting room and refreshments.

    January 2010

    AGM Thanks

    Thanks to friends and colleagues who supported our AGM and made the evening such an interesting and enjoyable one! We have added to our committee and gained supporters with a wide range of experience, skills and insight. Thanks also go to Wendy McAuslan, VOX Development Co-ordinator, for her interactive presentation on the benefits of Peer Support to mental health and employability. We all learnt more about each other and our own strengths.


    December 2009


    Wellness Recovery Action Plan is a self management tool for staying well and for helping you to feel better when not well. Scottish Government's mental health improvement plan, Towards a Mentally Flourishing Scotland, promotes self directed approaches to recovery and mentions WRAP.

    WRAP was developed in the USA by Mary Ellen Copeland, in response to her own challenges of living with mental ill health, and in consultation with others. It helps us look at what we are like when well, what we do on a regular basis to keep well, and action plans for coping with triggers, things that happen and are outwith our control. The crisis plan is a document that can be included in the Advance Statement and shared with supporters who may be friends, colleagues or family.

    What is WRAP?

    November 2009

    Peer Support Fife Bulletin - First Issue

    'Read all about it' in our first News Bulletin, including a write-up of the United We Stand event with photographs. There are also articles on peer support, WRAP and recovery, news about funding and quotes courtesy of the Pathways to Recovery workbook from the the University of Kansas.

    October 2009

    United We Stand 14 October 2009

    More than 80 people joined us at Elmwood College, Cupar, on 14 October at our mental health networking event United We Stand, demonstrating that there is strength in unity and the importance of having a voice and making a difference. Graham Morgan MBE, keynote speaker, inspired delegates as he described the work of the Highland Users Group, mentioning the importance of 'fair and just lives' and the 'solidarity of a shared bond'. Wendy McAuslan from the national service user organisation Voices of Experience was the final speaker, helping to gather feedback on potential development areas around networking and user/carer involvement.

    Workshops numbered 14, including NHS Fife projects - Playfield Institute, Moodcafe, Gemini Team & Tidal Model developments; Angus Mental Health Association; Barony Contact Points; Fife Council Social Work Service; Going Forth SAMH; LINK Adolescent Befriending East Fife; Mental Health Network Greater Glasgow; Scotia Clubhouse & friends; User Carer Involvement Dumfries & Galloway.
    Here is the event summary - read Summary.
    And a link to Graham's talk: Graham's keynote address

    August 2009

    Workshops on Peer Support

    We are planning some awareness-raising workshops in Fife, on the Peer Support model in the mental health setting. Topics will include 'what is Peer Support?', the benefits of PS, skills & experience required for effective PS, boundaries and risks. The first Workshop will be on 2 September at Going Forth, SAMH, Dunfermline.

    March 2009

    IIMHL Brisbane Conference & Auckland Exchange

    After 24hrs flying Chrys Muirhead has returned from her trip of a lifetime to Australia and New Zealand for the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership conference and exchange. The main highlights - meeting mental health activists, sharing experiences and seeing some sights. There was an opportunity to attend a Peer Support workshop led by Gene Johnson of Recovery Innovations which was also attended by Cupar, Fife, colleague Christina Cooper of the TODAY Group, which provide collective advocacy in Fife for people with mental health difficulties.

    January 2009

    More Peer Support Training

    Chrys Muirhead facilitated another PS workshop at Turning Point Scotland, Glasgow which included discussions around user involvement in service design and delivery.

    November 2008

    Peer Support Workshops in Glasgow

    Chrys Muirhead delivered Peer Support one day and two day follow up workshops to service users and staff at Turning Point Scotland in Glasgow, using the 'Pathways to Recovery' workbook from the University of Kansas for activities.

    August 2008

    First WRAP Training

    On Monday 11 August 2008 the first 'Introduction to WRAP - Wellness Recovery Action Planning' workshop was held in the Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, Fife, facilitated by Chrys Muirhead and Eric Nicol, Recovery Impact Worker with Turning Point Scotland.

    June 2008

    WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Planning) Facilitator Training

    Chrys Muirhead completed the WRAP facilitator training in Edinburgh, delivered by Stephen Pocklington, Copeland Center, and Rona McBrierty. It was an opportunity to share with others, develop relationships and hear about this user led self management tool. Further information about WRAP is on the Recovery page.

    April 2008

    Celebrating Recovery! conference does what it says!

    Celebrating Recovery at Elmwood College on 10 April 2008 was attended by over 120 people, from Scotland and England. Taking part were Chrys Muirhead, conference organiser and Convener PS Fife, opening speakers Prof Phil Barker and Poppy Buchanan-Barker on their Tidal Model of recovery and reclamation; workshops from Ron Coleman, Moira Gillespie and Tommy Black, Greater Glasgow Mental Health Network, Edinburgh Crisis Centre, Horsecross Community drama group, Falkirk District Association for Mental Health with final address by Susan Archibald, disability rights activist and vote of thanks from Simon Bradstreet, Scottish Recovery Network Director.

    See Celebrating Recovery Programme

  • Definitions

    Peer Support - What is it?

    "a system of giving and receiving help founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility and mutual agreement on what is useful ..... This connection, or affiliation, is a deep, holistic understanding based on mutual experience where people are able to 'be' with each other without the constraints of traditional (expert/patient) relationships.""

    Shery Mead 2003

    Peer Support Workshops

    On 16 August 2010 a Peer Support Workshop was held in the Levenmouth area of Fife, in Buckhaven Community Centre. Again there were participants from outwith Fife as well as local folk interested in hearing about the benefits of PS, both formally and informally.

    Contact Point, Kirkcaldy was the setting for two Peer Support Workshops organised by Peer Support Fife, on 17 February and 24 March 2010. Participants came from a variety of settings and areas, including Edinburgh, Dumfries and Fife.

    History of National PS Developments

    Scottish Recovery Network held a conference in Glasgow, December 2005, to promote the formalised Peer Support model, with speakers from Recovery Innovations and the Georgia Certified Peer Specialist Project. Following this, in November 2006, a group of Scottish service users in Edinburgh were trained in the PS Worker model by a Recovery Innovations trainer and again in January 2008. Pilot PS Worker projects were set up in 5 health board areas of Scotland (not Fife) in 2008.

    An independent evaluation of the peer support worker pilot schemes, November 2009, has recommended further roll out of the PSWorker model at the same time as making recommendations for future implementation:
    Summary of Research Findings
    Full PS Worker Evaluation Report

    Peer Support PDA

    Here is the link on the SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) website to the documents relating to the Mental Health Peer Support PDA (professional development award) - The Arrangements document gives various information about the rationale for the award's development, aims, delivery, learning materials etc.

    The 2 new unit specifications for the Mental Health Peer Support PDA (professsional development award) - Recovery Context and Developing Practice - are Higher National (HN) units and can be undertaken individually.

    It is encouraging to note the referencing of the strengths model pioneered at the University of Kansas and Shery Mead's website

    International Peer Work Examples

    Shery Mead is a consultant working in the area of peer support, including 'social action and social change', peer run crisis alternatives and training professionals in recovery based practices. Articles by Shery Mead include "Defining Peer Support" and "Peer Support: What makes it unique?" This explores the peer support role and what makes it different to other relationships in the mental health setting. Topics like mutuality and shared experience(s), personal responsibility and being in control.

    Recovery Innovations of Arizona provide individual and hospital-based peer support: "Peer Support Specialists and Recovery Coaches are powerful recovery role models that engage each individual served in a personal recovery program. Based on the person's goals the peer staff offer a wide range of support activities, skill building, and case management".

    The Georgia Certified Peer Specialist Project has trained over 437 specialists to fill 'key roles in the public mental health system'. As a consumer (user) movement the Georgia CPS project believes that the understanding of 'what creates recovery' is key to their delivery of services and integration of peer workers. Their mission statement includes the desire "to promote self-determination, personal responsibility and empowerment inherent in self-directed recovery".

    Peer Led Crisis Alternatives

    Shared experience at a time of need and an alternative to the psychiatric system

    "crisis is an opportunity to grow in relationship and change old patterns"
    Shery Mead, IPS (intentional peer support) Workbook p161

    "In times of crisis, people feel alone with their anxiety, panic, anger, frustrations and depression. One of the goals of peer-run crisis respite is to provide connections and relationships that can lessen the intensity of these feelings. These non-medical alternative programs offer a comfortable, non-judgmental environment in which one might be able to process stresses as well as explore new options. The hope is that these interactions will result in fresh, short-term solutions and a wider array of options for handling future crises."
    National Empowerment Center, Lawrence, Massachusetts, USA

    The Second Story Respite House in Santa Cruz, California, is short-stay and sleeps six with a voluntary opportunity to learn to use relationships to move out of old roles and patterns. Staffed by peers (people with lived experience of mood swings, consuming fear, voices, visions...) who have learned to be with some discomfort, the household provides an opportunity to experience what change feels like, to learn new responses through relationships with each other.

    Video of Second Story

    Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service

    "Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service was set up in 1999 by a group of service users, who had campaigned for five years to develop the service. Initially, the service was run in partnership with Social Services, becoming a registered charity in 2001.The service was set up to be a place of sanctuary, which was an alternative to hospital admission and statutory services for people in acute mental health crisis. The service was established, and continues to be governed and managed, by people with direct experience of mental health problems. We have our own unique perspectives on what it feels like to be in crisis and what helps and does not help. We have developed our service based on this knowledge and experience, while responding to the needs articulated by our visitors and callers."

    Dial House is a place of sanctuary open 6pm–2am Friday-Monday. Visitors can access when they are in crisis. They can telephone to request a visit, or turn up at the door 6pm–10.30pm. They currently have 80–130 visits each month.

    User Survivor Leadership

    From involvement to participation to leadership and beyond ...

    "Unlike participation, leadership assumes people with mental health problems have the power to set the agenda, make major decisions and control resources. Having said that, leadership of any sort must have boundaries; it should never be absolute and it needs to be shared."
    Mary O'Hagan, International Journal of Leadership in Public Services Volume 5, Issue 4, December 2009
    read article

    Mary O'Hagan led a workshop on Service User Participation and Leadership in St Andrews, Fife, on 28 March 2011. Jointly funded by Fife Council, NHS Fife and PS Fife, this event gave opportunities for workers, volunteers, users, survivors and carers to consider the sharing of power in decision making.
    See Feedback Report and Mary's Powerpoint Presentation

    quotes about involving users and survivors

    "the involvement of service users in the management, design and delivery of services"
    Phillips 2004

  • Through campaign groups at national and local levels
  • In the planning, organising and managing of services
  • Organising individual care, for example, in needs assessment procedures and the development of care plans
    Truman & Raine 2002

    "A distinction must be drawn between service user involvement that is management centred, and that which is user centred. In the former the agenda is set by service purchasers and practitioners and control held within the organisation. The latter leans towards the objective being set and driven forward by users of the services. The two types of service user involvement highlight the main difficulty in defining service user involvement as a concept as they are not mutually exclusive."
    Robson et al, 2003

    The User Survivor Movement

    "Politicising oneself by joining with other survivors in political actions is an excellent antidote to the powerlessness that psychiatry induces in its subjects. Becoming active in the struggle against psychiatry (and other forms of injustice)... is a good alternative to the helplessness psychiatry encourages."
    Jeffrey Masson 1989
    Quote from Mind

  • Peer Advocacy


    "Peer advocates are people who have personal experience of mental health difficulties and who have achieved a sufficient level of recovery to complete an accredited training course in peer advocacy. Once they are qualified they can complete a period working with an existing peer advocate before engaging with clients on their own. This puts them in a unique position in understanding the problems faced by people with mental health difficulties."
    Irish Advocacy Network

    "Peer Advocacy is about individuals who share significant life experiences. The peer advocate and their advocacy partner may share age, gender, ethnicity, diagnosis or issues. Peer advocates use their own experiences to understand and empathise with their advocacy partner."
    Definition from the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance

    Advocacy is a process of helping people to have their say and to increase their confidence. It is about standing alongside people who might otherwise be ignored. It can be about speaking on behalf of people who are unable to do so for themselves. It's empowering, enabling and a safeguard to people who are vulnerable and could be discriminated against.

    Peer Advocacy lessens the imbalance of power between the advocate and their advocacy partner, increasing self-awareness, confidence and assertiveness so that the person can speak for themselves. It enables people to gain access to information, explore and understand the options, and to then express their views and wishes.

    "Peer advocacy is support from someone with experience of using mental health services. Peer advocates can draw on their own experiences to understand and empathise with the person they are working with. Working with a peer advocate makes it easier for advocate and user to have an equal relationship. Some peer advocates and advocacy schemes work on an entirely voluntary basis, but the majority are now funded user and survivor-run schemes with paid workers."

    Carer Involvement

    Supporting carers to have a voice

    "Carer involvement and participation means carers being fully involved in service design, delivery and review - not simply relying on consultation. It places carers in a much more active role and should be based on power sharing.

    Why involve carers?

    Involving carers in planning and improving services makes good sense: they understand their needs and role. Carers undertake tasks and duties that most people don't have the first idea about.
    Talking to carers can also provide feedback about services that you could not get in any other way. Apart from their obvious knowledge about their own needs, carers are very often best placed, next to the cared for themselves, to talk about the needs of services users.
    They should be key partners in planning and commissioning not only carers' services but also services for the cared for."

    The Princess Royal Trust for Carers

    The Triangle of Care - Carers Included: A Best Practice Guide in Acute Mental Health Care was launched at a reception at the House of Commons on July 28th. The publication is the result of collaboration between The Princess Royal Trust for Carers (PRTC) and The National Mental Health Development Unit (NMHDU) and the title refers to the essential 3-way relationship between professionals, service users, their carers and families. The guide emphasises the need for better local strategic involvement of carers and families in the care- planning and treatment of people experiencing mental ill-health and calls for better partnership working between service users, their carers and providers of services in order to achieve the best possible outcomes.

    "By being actively involved you can ...

  • Help other people receiving services to have a better experience than you may have had.
  • Share ideas and experiences with fellow service users and carers.
  • Offer a fresh perspective on issues, policies and services "expertise through experience" to the service providers
  • Provide an additional sounding board (consultation partners) with regard to the the management of change programme within our public services
  • Ensure that the "quiet voices" amongst us have a voice and the ability to actively contribute"

    User and Carer Involvement, Dumfries & Galloway

  • Recovery

    "As a process, recovery is a complex and nonlinear evolution that Ridgway (2001) describes as being comprised of a series of journeys including:

  • reawakening of hope after despair
  • breaking through denial and achieving understanding and acceptance
  • moving from withdrawal to engagement and active participation in life
  • active coping rather than passive adjustment
  • no longer viewing oneself as primarily a person with psychiatric disorder and reclaiming a positive view of self
  • moving from alienation to a sense of meaning and purpose

    The Tidal Model of Recovery and Reclamation

    The Tidal Model is focused on asking one important question:

    How can we help people address, deal with, overcome, or come to terms with their problems of human living? Whether we are professionals, friends, family members or someone who is in 'the same boat' the answer is the same:

    1. First, we must let the person teach us about her or his experience

    2. Then, and only then, we can begin to explore - with the person - what might need to be done if the person is to address , resolve, fix or come to terms with this particular problem of human living

    The Tidal Model Manual, p15 [2007]

    Prof Phil Barker & Poppy Buchanan-Barker: /

    Wellness Recovery Action Planning

    WRAP is a self-management and recovery system developed by a group of people who had mental health difficulties and who were struggling to incorporate wellness tools and strategies into their lives. WRAP is designed to:

  • Decrease and prevent intrusive or troubling feelings and behaviors
  • Increase personal empowerment
  • Improve quality of life
  • Assist people in achieving their own life goals and dreams

  • Books, Articles, Talks

    new releases ...
    old favourites ...
    topics of interest ...
    developments in other areas ...

    'Psychiatry beyond the current paradigm' by Pat Bracken et al

    Article in British Journal of Psychiatry, 3 December 2012, by Pat Bracken, Philip Thomas, Sami Timimi, Eia Asen, Graham Behr, Carl Beuster, Seth Bhunnoo, Ivor Browne, Navjyoat Chhina, Duncan Double, Simon Downer, Chris Evans, Suman Fernando, Malcolm R. Garland, William Hopkins, Rhodri Huws, Bob Johnson, Brian Martindale, Hugh Middleton, Daniel Moldavsky, Joanna Moncrieff, Simon Mullins, Julia Nelki, Matteo Pizzo, James Rodger, Marcellino Smyth, Derek Summerfield, Jeremy Wallace and David Yeomans.

    A series of editorials in this Journal have argued that psychiatry is in the midst of a crisis. The various solutions proposed would all involve a strengthening of psychiatry's identity as essentially 'applied neuroscience'. Although not discounting the importance of the brain sciences and psychopharmacology, we argue that psychiatry needs to move beyond the dominance of the current, technological paradigm. This would be more in keeping with the evidence about how positive outcomes are achieved and could also serve to foster more meaningful collaboration with the growing service user movement."

    Read Article

    Psychiatric Power: a Personal View by Dr Pat Bracken

    "One of the most important questions facing psychiatry today concerns its relationship to the emerging international service user movement. I believe that this movement presents not only the greatest challenge to psychiatry, but also the greatest opportunity. As it becomes more organised and influential this movement is starting to play a major role in shaping the sort of questions that are being asked about mental health services and their priorities.

    Yet there is limited reflection in our profession about how we, as doctors, might engage positively with it. It seems that while we are comfortable working with individuals and organisations who accept the medical framing of mental problems, we are less willing to contemplate working with critical service users. These are people who reject the medical model because they feel harmed by a system that describes their problems using the language of psychopathology. If we are serious about having an inclusive debate on mental health we will have to overcome this impasse."

    Dr Pat Bracken, Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director, Centre for Mental Health Care and Recovery, Bantry General Hospital, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland.
    Irish Journal of Psychiatric Medicine, 2012; 29(1): 55-58

    Read Article

    Some Observations of Soteria-Alaska - Daniel Mackler

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

    "Soteria-Alaska was founded by Jim Gottstein, an Alaskan psychiatric survivor and Harvard lawyer who recognized Anchorage’s need for a similar hospital diversion program. Prior to the creation of Soteria-Alaska, there were no alternatives to hospitalization in Anchorage (or, for that matter, almost anywhere in the United States) that promoted the idea of full recovery without medication. Jim, along with others, created Soteria-Alaska with a clear vision of helping people recover fully."

    "I write this piece from Anchorage, Alaska, where I am presently filling in as the executive director of Soteria-Alaska while their founding executive director, Susan Musante, is on sabbatical. Soteria-Alaska, a program designed to follow Loren Mosher’s California Soteria model from the 1970s and early 1980s, has been up and running for the past three years. Soteria-Alaska is a house, staffed around-the-clock with gentle, open-minded nonprofessionals, with five beds for people experiencing psychosis. The basic idea is that people can live in the house for about six months or so, give or take, in order to work through or pass through their psychosis with little or preferably no psychiatric medication. Soteria-Alaska is a largely state- and grant-funded program open primarily to Alaska residents, for whom, if they are low-income, it is free."
    Read Article on Mad in America

    Are our mental health services driving people to suicide?

    Blog post by Vivek Datta MD

    "When trying to establish whether more mentally ill people are committing suicide now than in the past, we immediately hit upon a stumbling block: the definition of mental illness has vastly expanded to cover a range of maladies and miseries that were not defined as such a century ago. How then, can we evaluate the claim that more mentally ill people die by suicide? There seem two possible ways to go about this. One is to consider only those cases of mental illness that would have been regarded as mental illness in the past - the type of 'lunacy' or 'melancholia' that mostly led to hospitalization. The second possibility is to reclassify cases that today would be regarded as having a mental disorder present. The problem with the latter is it does not allow us to discern whether suicide is more common in the mentally ill today than in the past, or whether it just looks like that. We return to the arguments surrounding the social construction and social reality of mental illness....."
    Read complete Blog post

    Pharmageddon, Book by Dr David Healy

    "This searing indictment, David Healy's most comprehensive and forceful argument against the pharmaceuticalization of medicine, tackles problems in health care that are leading to a growing number of deaths and disabilities. Healy, who was the first to draw attention to the now well-publicized suicide-inducing side effects of many anti-depressants, attributes our current state of affairs to three key factors: product rather than process patents on drugs, the classification of certain drugs as prescription-only, and industry-controlled drug trials. These developments have tied the survival of pharmaceutical companies to the development of blockbuster drugs, so that they must overhype benefits and deny real hazards. Healy further explains why these trends have basically ended the possibility of universal health care in the United States and elsewhere around the world. He concludes with suggestions for reform of our currently corrupted evidence-based medical system."

    Recovery and Liberation: One and the Same?

    Blog post on Mad in America by Jack Carney, recently retired from social work in New York, and back to being an 'Alinsky-trained organizer, advocate and, politely, provocateur'.

    "Recovery and Liberation: One and the Same?
    You can’t have one without the other. I’ll explain as we go along .... In short, recovery appears to be co-terminus with that first breath of liberation, with the realization that you can live the remainder of your life free of the mental health system, free of dangerous medications, of the fear of losing your freedom whenever you have a weird or potentially subversive thought or feeling. So when we talk about recovery, we’re talking about recovering the identity that was taken from psychiatric survivors or that they never had the opportunity to develop, and not about recuperation from putative mental illnesses that, as Bentall and others have pointed out, have no factual basis ..."
    Read complete Blog post

    Scotland the Brave Article - Andrew Roberts

    "Scotland pioneered the user movement in the United Kingdom, according to recent research by the Survivor History Group. At least twice in as many decades it was Scottish patients who put their full force on the lever of history. Academic historians have given the credit, for both occasions, to London. But new evidence suggests Scotland led the way."

    Survivors History archive of "Scotland the Brave" by Andrew Roberts - Secretary of the Survivors History Group. Originally published in Mental Health Today July/August 2009 (Pavilion Journals (Brighton) Ltd).
    Link to article on Survivors History website:

    Joanna Moncrieff Interview - The Myth of the Chemical Cure

    Dr Joanna Moncrieff, course organiser for the Royal College of Psychiatrists examinations, is the author of 'The Myth of the Chemical Cure: A Critique of Psychiatric Drug Treatment'. Here is a link to a 2009 interview with Michael F Shaughnessy, Senior Columnist at, Eastern New Mexico University where Dr Moncrieff responds to questions about this so-called 'chemical imbalance' and the treatment of depression: Interview

    "We are pretending to treat or cure people with mental illness because that makes us feel alright about controlling them. Sometimes we need to control them but we should at least be honest about what we are doing. Pharmaceutical companies are cashing in on our dishonesty."

    Crazy Like Us: The Globalisation of the Western Mind

    Book by Ethan Watters

    "It is well known that US culture is a dominant force and its exportation of everything from movies to junk food is a world-wide phenomenon. But it is possible that its most troubling export has yet to be accounted for? In Crazy Like Us , Ethan Watters reveals that the most devastating consequence of the spread of US culture has been the bulldozing of the human psyche itself: it is in the process of homogenizing the way the world goes mad." Amazon

    Myth of Mental Health Nursing and the Challenge of Recovery

    The latest paper by Prof Phil Barker and Poppy Buchanan-Barker 'Myth of mental health nursing and the challenge of recovery' is published in the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing.

    "Abstract: Although the concept of 'mental health nursing' has grown in popularity over the past 35 years, it remains a myth. People believe that they know what it is and value it highly, but cannot describe or define it other than in vague terms. This paper briefly charts the rise of 'mental health nursing', emphasizing its political implications, and in particular, the drive towards an embrace of a person-centred, recovery-focused approach to care. If nurses are to realize such ambitions, they must resolve their historical association with psychiatric nursing. The concept of the 'mental health nurse' might signal the emergence of a new vision for human services, but might also signal the need for 'mental health nurses' to negotiate a formal separation from the traditional 'psychiatric' family."
    Read Paper

    Robert Whitaker (Anatomy of an Epidemic) Video

    Bob Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic, speaks in Victoria, Canada on May 17, 2011. He overviews the past 30 years of scientific research into psychiatric medications, showing how the drugs seem to be creating the very chemical imbalances they’re supposed to cure, and why they develop chronicity in the long term: "a societal delusion driving us - we're fixing this 'known biological problem'"
    See Video

    Book for Carers

    A Straight Talking Introduction to Caring for Someone with Mental Health Problems
    Edited by Jen Kilyon and Theresa Smith

    This book tells how family and friends of people with complex mental health needs frequently have to battle for, and often with, mental health services, whilst they themselves can be stigmatised. Jen Kilyon and Theresa Smith help carers tell their stories. Although some of these stories end with a positive outcome and others tell of continuing battles, all demonstrate that it is frequently the carers alone who keep hope for recovery alive.

    The book includes things they found most helpful in their struggles. Rather than accept that solutions to mental health problems are owned by the medical professions, these books look at alternatives and provide information so that the users of psychiatric services, their families and carers can make more decisions about their own lives.

    Doctoring the Mind

    Doctoring the Mind - Is our Current Treatment of Mental Illness Really Any Good? - by Richard P Bentall

    Bentall is one of psychiatry’s most eloquent enemies . . . the drugs don’t work (Sunday Times )

    "Bentall's thesis is that, for all the apparent advances in understanding psychiatric disorders, psychiatric treatment has done little to improve human welfare, because the scientific research which has led to the favouring of mind-altering drugs is, as he puts it, "fatally flawed". He cites some startling evidence from the World Health Organisation that suggests patients suffering psychotic episodes in developing countries recover "better" than those from the industrialised world and the aim of the book is broadly to suggest why this might be so."
    Salley Vickers, The Observer, Sunday 21 June 2009

    Unshrinking Psychosis

    Unshrinking Psychosis - Understanding and Healing the Wounded Soul - by John Watkins

    "This book takes a bold quantum leap beyond restrictive bio medical terms of discrete illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder to view these conditions from a holistic perspective that reveals a method of madness of psychosis. Some episodes may function as a desperate coping strategy while others reflect a profound developmental crisis or spontaneous self-helping process. As they originate in deepseated spiritual imperatives some tumultuous episodes are appropriately viewed as spiritual emergencies or potentially transformative psychospiritual crises."
    Amazon UK - Kindle edition - for a paper book copy contact Working to Recovery

    Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service

    "LSCS is, at heart, a crisis sanctuary operating from 6pm-2am Fridays to Sundays, the hours when most mental health services are closed and isolation can, in particular, hurt. Support workers are on hand at Dial House which prides itself on offering non-judgemental empathy, safety and refuge space. The service offers itself as an alternative to hospital admission. Strong feelings of suicide are common. Visitors usually have a history of trauma. Those with 'challenging' behaviour are welcomed."
    Read full article about the Leeds service in

    History Beyond Trauma

    By Francoise Davoine and Jean-Max Gaudilliere, professors at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, who both hold advanced degrees in classics - French, Latin and Greek literature - and doctorates in sociology.

    History Beyond Trauma "In the course of nearly thirty years of work with patients in psychiatric hospitals and private practice, Francoise Davoine and Jean-Max Gaudilliere have uncovered the ways in which transference and countertransference are affected by the experience of social catastrophe. Handed down from one generation to the next, the unspoken horrors of war, betrayal, dissociation, and disaster in the families of patient and analyst alike are not only revived in the therapeutic relationship but, when understood, actually provide the keys to the healing process.

    The authors present vivid examples of clinical work with severely traumatised patients, reaching inward to their own intimate family histories as shaped by the Second World War and outward toward an exceptionally broad range of cultural references to literature, philosophy, political theory, and anthropology. Using examples from medieval carnivals and Japanese No theater, to Wittgenstein and Hannah Arendt, to Sioux rituals in North Dakota, they reveal the ways in which psychological damage is done - and undone."

    Postpsychiatry - a new direction for mental health

    A British Medical Journal article by Patrick Bracken and Philip Thomas, consultant psychiatrists - Postpsychiatry - a new direction for mental health 2001 - talks about the diminishing belief in the ability of science and technology to resolve human and social problems.

    From the conclusion:
    " ... Postpsychiatry tries to move beyond the conflict between psychiatry and antipsychiatry. Antipsychiatry argued that psychiatry was repressive and based on a mistaken medical ideology, and its proponents wanted to liberate mental patients from its clutches. In turn, psychiatry condemned its opponents as being driven by ideology. Both groups were united by the assumption that there could be a correct way to understand madness; that the truth could, and should, be spoken about madness and distress. Postpsychiatry frames these issues in a different way. It does not propose new theories about madness, but it opens up spaces in which other perspectives can assume a validity previously denied them. Crucially, it argues that the voices of service users and survivors should now be centre stage." read Article

    The Trail is the Thing - new book from KU

    Introducing a new book, hot off the press, from the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare, Office of Mental Health Research & Training - The Trail is the Thing - a year of daily reflections based on their successful Pathways to Recovery strengths self help workbook.

    "The thing to remember when travelling is that the trail is the thing, not the end of the trail." ~ Louis L'Amour

    This book "is the result of almost 2 years of work from 4 authors and more than 20 individuals who provided their ideas, edits and support to bring readers of Pathways to Recovery a new tool ... it is about finding the things in life that give passion, purpose and meaning." The authors of this book do not receive profit from sales of this workbook. All profits are designated for reprinting of the book and to provide scholarships for Kansas residents with the lived experience of mental illness or trauma to return to post-secondary education.

    Pathways to Recovery, Supported Education Group, Office of Mental Health Research and Training @ School of Social Welfare, The University of Kansas

    The Caring Focus of RD Laing

    Phil Barker and Poppy Buchanan-Barker 2001

    "... Laing's influence extended far beyond psychiatry, psychotherapy and medicine. However, the practical application of Laing's thought - by the man himself and some of his most famous allies and former pupils - was largely non-medical. Indeed, we might interpret the application of his philosophy - especially through his frequently revised views on psychotherapy - as a nursing approach, focused on nurturing the conditions - social and interpersonal - under which people might finally seize their own power and use this, constructively, to define themselves, rather then be subjugated, if not actually driven to madness, by others ..." read Article

    Open Dialogue Approach Finland

    Five-year experience of first-episode nonaffective psychosis in open-dialogue approach: Treatment principles, follow-up outcomes, and two case studies
    Psychotherapy Research, March 2006; 16(2): 214-228

    Abstract: The open dialogue (OD) family and network approach aims at treating psychotic patients in their homes. The treatment involves the patient's social network and starts within 24 hrs after contact. Responsibility for the entire treatment process rests with the same team in both inpatient and outpatient settings. The general aim is to generate dialogue with the family to construct words for the experiences that occur when psychotic symptoms exist. In the Finnish Western Lapland a historical comparison of 5-year follow-ups of two groups of first-episode nonaffective psychotic patients were compared ... read Article

    Anatomy of an Epidemic

    Anatomy of an Epidemic, a book by Robert Whitaker, author of 'Mad in America' and investigative journalist.

    "Anatomy of an Epidemic investigates a profoundly troubling question: do psychiatric medications increase the likelihood that people taking them, far from being helped, are more likely to become chronically ill? In making a compelling case that our current psychotropic drugs are causing as much - if not more - harm than good, Robert Whitaker reviews the scientific literature thoroughly, demonstrating how much of the evidence is on his side. There is nothing unorthodox here - this case is solid and evidence-backed. If psychiatry wants to retain its credibility with the public, it will now have to engage with the scientific argument at the core of this cogently and elegantly written book."
    David Healy, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Cardiff University and author of The Antidepressant Era and Let Them Eat Prozac

    Still Crazy after all these Years

    San Diego Weekly Reader, Vol. 32, No. 2, Jan. 9, 2003

    "Dr Loren Mosher, a San Diego psychiatrist, was the principal architect of the Soteria experiment. What unfolded during the years it operated (1971 through 1983) shaped his ideas about schizophrenia, a condition estimated to afflict 1 to 2 out of every 100 Americans. Unlike the majority of his professional colleagues, Mosher was never persuaded that psychotic behavior is caused by brain abnormalities. He moreover came to believe that if schizophrenia is not an organic disease, then it's wrong to force schizophrenics to take drugs that change their brains. He acknowledges that the powerful antipsychotic medications prescribed for schizophrenia nowadays often do suppress the symptoms of lunacy and make disturbed individuals easier to control. But Mosher argues that there are better ways to help most schizophrenics recover their sanity - cheaper, more humane and libertarian, less devastating to the human body and soul." read Article

    Crisis and Connection

    "Psychiatric interventions for crisis care lie at the center of the conflict between forced treatment and recovery/wellness systems in mental health services. Though crisis can mean completely different things to people who have the experience, the general public has been taught a unilateral fear response based on media representation. More and more this has led to social control but is erroneously still called treatment This does nothing to help the person and in fact further confuses people already trying to make meaning of their experience.

    This paper offers a fundamental change in understanding and working with psychiatric crises. Rather than objectifying and naming the crisis experience in relation to the construct of illness, people can begin to explore the subjective experience of the person in crisis while offering their own subjective reality to the relationship."

    Shery Mead & David Hilton read Paper

    Leadership for Empowerment and Equality:
    By Mary O'Hagan

    Published in the International Journal of Leadership in Public Services Volume 5, Issue 4, December 2009:

    "The leadership of people with lived experience of mental health problems is underdeveloped, when it comes to leadership in one's own recovery, at the service level, and at the systemic level. Unlike the mental health system, the user/survivor movement has a values base of empowerment and equality. But the movement has not yet created an explicit model of leadership based on these values. " read more

    Realising Potential

    An action plan for allied health professionals in mental health

    "I just want to get back to an ordinary life that I can function in .."
    Service User

    Realising Potential is a document that brings together the work of the allied health professions (AHPs) in mental health, in partnership with service users and carers, professional organisations and NHS boards.
    " brings benefits to service users through the promotion of realistic hope of meaningful recovery and positive engagement with social, educational and work opportunities." from the Foreword by Shona Robison MSP, Minister for Public Health and Sport.

    What is Narrative Therapy?

    An easy-to-read introduction on Narrative Therapy by author Alice Morgan. It includes simple and concise explanations of the thinking behind narrative practices as well as many practical examples of therapeutic conversations.

    "Narrative therapists are interested in working with people to bring forth and thicken stories that do not support or sustain problems. As people begin to inhabit and live out the alternative stories, the results are beyond solving problems. Within the new stories, people live out new self images, new possibilities for relationships and new futures."
    more info

    Mental Health Ethics: The Human Context

    Phil Barker is the editor of a new book - Mental Health Ethics: The human context. Offering a comprehensive and interdisciplinary perspective, it includes six parts, each with their own introduction, summary and set of ethical challenges, covering:

  • fundamental ethical principles
  • legal issues
  • specific challenges for different professional groups
  • working with different service user groups
  • models of care and treatment
  • recovery and human rights perspectives.

    Full details from

  • Links
    Scottish Information Commissioner - It's public knowledge - responsible for enforcing and promoting Scotland's freedom of information laws, namely:
  • The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002
  • The Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004
  • The INSPIRE (Scotland) Regulations 2009
    The Scottish Human Rights Commission aims to promote and protect the human rights of everyone in Scotland and is independent of the UK and Scottish Parliaments and Governments. The Commission has a vision of a modern, outward-looking and fairer Scotland, where human dignity, equality and participation are guaranteed for all.
    The Edinburgh Crisis Centre is open 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, and provides community based, emotional and practical support at times of crisis. Carers can also access the service and there is a free phone telephone help line as well as face-to-face support and access to a wide range of information.
    PeerZone is a series of three hour face-to-face workshops led by and for people with experience of mental distress, developed by Mary O'Hagan and Sara McCook Weir in collaboration with others in New Zealand. It enhances the wellbeing for people with mental distress and provides professional development and support for the peer workforce.
    The Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival is one of Scotland's most diverse cultural events, covering everything from music, film and visual art to theatre, dance, and literature. The annual festival takes place in venues across Scotland throughout October, aiming to support the arts and challenge preconceived ideas about mental health.
    TED - Ideas worth spreading - "Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world".
    "The Tidal Model is a philosophical approach to the discovery of mental health. It emphasises helping people reclaim the personal story of mental distress, by recovering their voice. By using their own language, metaphors and personal stories people begin to express something of the meaning of their lives. This is the first step towards helping recover control over their lives"

  • Website Updates: Chrys Muirhead
    Chrys Muirhead Associates

    News Bytes & Bulletins

    June 2012
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    November 2009

    Robert Whitaker, USA author of Anatomy of an Epidemic, gave a public lecture in Elmwood College, Cupar, Fife, on 19 November 2011 - see Video of event.

    Photo, right to left - Shery Mead, Chris Hansen, Karen Taylor, Ron Coleman, Jacquie Nicholson - At the Sharp Edge, September 2011, Dunfermline, Fife

    Photo - Mary O'Hagan leading workshop on Service User Participation & Leadership, St Andrews, Fife, March 2011

    Photo, left to right - Poppy Buchanan-Barker, Chrys Muirhead, Prof Phil Barker - Tidal Model workshop, January 2011, Cupar, Fife.

    Photo, right to left - Sandra, Fiona and Brenda at the Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service - we visited in May 2011

    Photo, left to right - Alison Boyle, Chrys Muirhead, Graham Morgan, Wendy McAuslan - United We Stand conference October 2009 Cupar Fife

    Photo, left to right - Simon Bradstreet, Prof Phil Barker, Poppy Buchanan-Barker, Susan Archibald, Chrys Muirhead, Ron Coleman - Celebrating Recovery April 2008 Cupar Fife