Friday, August 23, 2013

Coughing at the mental health convention

At the TheMHS conference, there was a keynote address by Bernadette McSherry on Debating Mental Health Laws.

McSherry brought up a slide on ‘a recent report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’

A large portion of the audience started coughing.

Coughing can mean the audience that wants to listen, misses words. It's very disruptive and loud. It is also something I recognise from my decade or so working in theatre. For an actor hearing raucous coughing from an audience, they know it is an old and deliberate way of members of the audience showing disapproval.

Disapproval of those in law trying to stop torture? Excuse me?!

The coughing, from those in suits, stopped being as vigorous as soon as the slide changed.

Yes, I understand sometimes people get a tickle in their throat. But, this wasn’t some poor fellow feeling embarrassed about their involuntary noise. This was about people making loud noises over the top of the speaker, deliberately, a large group of them, heckling, thinking they could then pretend it wasn’t deliberate.

Or maybe, those people that coughed, have a psychosomatic reaction when someone accuses them of being professional torturers? (not that McSherry did, but the quote from the UN more or less does, if you think about it.)

I appreciate what TheMHS is doing, but it was sometimes those asking the questions on the floor that I was happier hearing from. I feel there is far too much focus on establishment, those who are toeing lines and hedging their bets… not enough actual listening to psychiatric survivors, not enough allowing of psychiatric survivors to speak of the looming monsters that are allowed, via our government, to rule our lives (who assault us further with ad campaigns using their terminology of abuse.)

Any commission into mental health needs to be run by those with recent lived-experience of what psychiatric services do, because they know how it feels to be under this regime, of yes, torture. Yet those with lived-experience are only deputy commissioners in Australia.

There were speakers blathering on about patients making Advanced Directives, but there was little understanding of how to get psychiatrists to follow these unless they said exactly what a psychiatrist wanted to hear.

          I did that. A GP I got discharged to in 2012, when I was off a treatment order (CTO), asked me some questions on what she should do if I became ‘unwell’. I just said what I knew would sound compliant, so I wouldn’t be put back on a CTO. It was not what I wished. Ask anyone on a CTO, or anyone who has recently been on one questions about ‘care’ and they’ll just spout what they think will mean they won’t get put back on a CTO. They’ll also tell you that they’re satisfied with their treatment, when they really, really HATE the treatment, think it DOES NOT WORK and would not wish anyone else to suffer it.

The diagnosed get told that they must agree that they have a ‘mental illness’ that they ‘must be compliant with treatment’ etc… and they know what happens if they don’t parrot what the psychiatrist wants them to parrot, they get increased dosages, or another medication added to their daily swallow, or the depot, or electro-shock, or forced ‘hospitalisation’.

If I coughed at everything that upset me, to show my disapproval, I’d have a very raw throat!

That said, TheMHS is a progressive conference, but I sat back feeling somewhat hurt because my view was not on stage, that is, until some lovely audience members got up and said their piece. Put a smile on my face to have my thoughts spoken so clearly. I wished they were the ones on the panel on the stage. I think in future, the panels should include at least some token people that don’t toe the line and hedge their bets or put on that hard money orientated mean-face. It’s not as though those people are unknown. It’s just that those people are denied an audience. I’d like to see that change with a bit more tokenism of those activists with lived-experience happening. Sure, we’ll get the uglies coughing disapproval, but I don’t see why torturers should rule a convention! I’m not saying order them to leave the theatre, but you know… who wants to hear them? Annoying sick fucks.

          There are also things that really worry me about boarder protection in Australia, that was mentioned. That can mean the type of speaker I want to see isn't even allowed into my country. I guess I'm also worried for myself, not only for people I might ask to come here. So, if I go anywhere I'm checking in with that country's embassy first. Don't want to be booked in to speak in another country, flying all the way, then put into detention and forced to take psych drugs, because there's something on my passport that I don't know about that puts me in the same category as a terrorist!
Non compos mentis by Initially NOclick here

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