Archive | September, 2012

Smokers on psychiatric wards

9 Sep

Smoking and mental illness

Here’s a link to a story I’ve put together using yesterday’s tweets on the subject of smoking and smokers on psychiatric wards – the dangers of smoking; the high prevalence of smoking amongst psychiatric patients; provision for smokers on psychiatric wards; and smoking cessation. Spurred by the forthcoming “Stoptober” event, where smokers are encouraged to stop smoking for 28 days (as a way to move towards stopping altogether) and a question from Dr Elin Roddy.

Smokers on psychiatric wards


web links 5Here are some related links:



The new Mental Health Bill and criminal records checks (a “career death sentence”)

9 Sep

The new Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill gets its second reading in the House of Commons on 14th September. This means it moves closer to becoming law. The Bill seeks to remove some important areas of discrimination, to make it clear that people with mental health problems (past or present) may play a full part in public life – such as being an MP, school governor or serving on a jury.

In my view, the Bill misses one vital issue: criminal records checks. A tweet which gets a lot of retweets whenever it goes out is this:

“Mental illness is not a crime. Mental health history information has no place in criminal records checks. Full stop.”

People can see the obvious injustice in putting those whose only “crime” is to have had a mental health problem into the criminal records system.

This has had a direct impact on me and my ability to put last year’s events behind me and get back into the jobs market. I had a completely  clean criminal record and had never even come close to being arrested.

Then, last year, police came to my home and took me to my local psychiatric hospital where I was sectioned. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I learned – through Twitter – that this meant I could no longer say, “I’ve never been arrested”: the power used by the police – s136 – is an arrest, which would be kept on police records.

And, because the police had taken me to hospital, the hospital would have notified the police of the subsequent section 2, which would also be kept on police records.

I then found out that, if I wanted to volunteer at my local school or sports club, the enhanced criminal records check the head teacher or club leader would request would show up the arrest, and that I’d been sectioned under the Mental Health Act. This private health information is not something I want to broadcast to people in the area where I’ve lived for 2 decades nor people I’d be working for.

The good news is that I found out before applying to my local school or sports club, because then the cat would have been out of the bag.

Good news for others is that it’s only where there’s been some form of contact with police that mental health history information can appear on a criminal records check. The police don’t know if you’ve visited your GP for anti-depressants or seen a counsellor. They won’t even know if you’ve been sectioned, so long as there’s been no contact with police.

More good news is that it’s only where you want to work with children or vulnerable adults – and hence need what’s called an enhanced CRB check – that such information can be disclosed. A standard CRB check just has criminal convictions.

However, for me, keeping my health information private, as is my right, means I’ve not been able to use my time and talents to volunteer at my local school or sports club. Which is a shame. For me and for them.

That’s why I was heartened to hear this very issue raised in the recent House of Commons mental health debate. And why I hope there might still be time to get this issue included in the proposed Bill.

Read the Storify story in the link below to find out more.

[The new Mental Health Bill & criminal records checks]

The new Mental Health Bill & criminal records checks – tweets

Standing up to bullies

3 Sep

Standing up to bullies can be tough. This weekend, when I stood up to one Twitter bully – forensic mental health nurse “E”, tweeting using the account in her pug dog Lenny Hems, @Fart_Pug – I was called a bully and a hypocrite, reported for abuse & lost followers. And that’s just Twitter.

Imagine if it’s your workplace, so what’s at stake isn’t an anonymous Twitter account that be closed at will but your job, your mortgage, your career? That’s a powerful incentive to keep quiet; to walk on by. But that’s where we get toxic environments like those at Winterbourne view developing and persisting.

It’s because we know of the inbuilt power imbalance, and the risks to whistle-blowers, that lots of other measures are in place to support the fostering of a healthy working and therapeutic environment on inpatient psychiatric wards.

We know that when we put one group of people in charge of another, the latter not only vulnerable but without credibility, and locked in out of sight, the risks of bullying behaviour are magnified. Inpatient psychiatric wards can be a playground for bullies.

Below – in my first venture into Storify – is a series of tweets I sent over the weekend. Not perfect, but a good start at expressing what I mean.

Standing up to bullies (part 1)

Standing up to bullies (part 2)