140 characters

20 Oct

I’m a tweeter. I tweet a lot. I’m always banging on about one thing or another on twitter – usually myself or about some piece of news that’s randomly floated across my twitter feed and fired me up. There are lots of subjects I tweet about. Here are some of them, in no particular order

  • Section 136, the useful police power to take someone they find in suspected mental health crisis in a public place to somewhere safe for mental health assessment; but which, due to a variety of reasons including lack of NHS “places of safety” (136 suites), especially for children, can mean people end up in police cells for hours or even days. I want the use of police cells to be banned outright to force the NHS to take people the police suspect are in mental health crisis (there would rightly be an outcry if police were expected to take people they suspected had a broken leg to police cells to wait for a doctor to come and assess them) and to limit this power to 6 hours, which is always going to be enough time for the police to drive someone they suspect is in mental health crisis to a healthcare venue and  hand them over to medics.
  • What I’ve called “pill shaming”, which is the underlying anti-psychiatric medication message that pervades mainstream
    Pill shaming bingo card

    Pill shaming buzzword bingo card

    media stories about about mental health written by journalists, commentators and therapists. Varios facets include taking medication is a weakness; all mental distress is psychological and therefore psychological means should be used to overcome it; and so on. There are also th anti-psychiatric medication messages from people who might be called ‘anti-psychiatry’ or ‘critical psychiatry’. This seems largely based on fears from the US insurance-based healthcare system and diagnostic categories, as well as of a USpharmaceutical industry that can market direct to the public, and of course US Scientology. These can be scary and vocal groups who hound people who speak up against stigma and discrimination – the scaremongering and pill-shaming on the #MedicatedandMighty hashtag was a recent example. Stigma about mental health problems stops people from seeking the help they need and harms real people’s lives. Shaming people and making their personal medication choices into some sort of public moral matter does the same. Pill shaming must be challenged. I use the hashtag #pillshaming.

  • The “headclutcher”, those standard pictures trotted out by picture editors whenever there’s a mental health story and
    'Head clutcher' montags

    ‘Head clutcher’ montags

    which consist of someone in lonely isolation, typically with their head in their hands. I was tickled pink to be part of the development of Time to Change’s brilliant new (and still developing) free online library of pictures for use in mental health stories, Get the Picture (#GetThePicture). It’s a welcome development and something that can be pointed to whenever a head clutcher picture is used. I tweet on the hashtag #headclutcher.

  • Halloween, when all the stereotypes about people with mental health problems being unpredictable and potentially violent that float around in the general public and media, as well as scary representations of what psychiatric hospitals are like, suddenly turn into a seasonal industry, Ridiculing and demonising people with serious health conditions for fun and profit isn’t about ‘offence’, it’s about harm – the real harm that is caused to real people’s lives every day. It’s a pretty despicable practice, but one thing I do notice since the big #AsylumNo campaign challenging Thorpe Park’s scary mental patient horror maze Asylum 2 years ago is that now businesses respond more quickly, and generally favourably. The challenges still need to be made, but there seem to be fewer, as well as fewer people who then want to put their resources into defending this discrimination in this way. Good news – but no cause for complacency.
  • Human rights, which mental health folks sorely need, but which seem too often to be ignored entirely by human rights organisations – that is,  unless we fall into one of their existing favoured categories like people in detention. There’s enormous scope for use of human rights arguments for people with mental health problems, whether that’s use of force or voting rights or taking away people’s phones on inpatient wards or the new Code of Practice to the Mental Health Act, even if most human rights organisations aren’t interested. I’m a big fan of human rights.
  • Use of forced medication, restraint and seclusion in psychiatric wards and how in some places this has become routine, a first line of attack rather than a final line of defence. So far as I know, the only nationally-collated and reported statistics in mental health are the annual report on deaths and self-harm – purely physical measures in supposedly mental health care. I want use of any form of coercion to be nationally collated and reported annually so that pictures of best practice can emerge and so we can know where places of bad practice exist.
  • Stigma, stigma, stigma – the negative assumptions about people with mental health problems that come up again and again.
  • Use of terms related to mental illness as metaphor, as insult, to emphasise disapproval – “crazy”, “fruitloop”, “loon”. Use of mental health terms this way reinforces negative associations and harms real people.
  • The difficulties in accessing good, timely mental health care. My own experience if of toxic coercive ‘care’ in hospital followed by neglect in the community. Parking me on welfare benefits and meds without any other form of help and support has simply compounded problems which, with proper help and support, could and should have seen me back in work within months. It’s a false economy. Here I am, over four years out of hospital, still waiting for treatment and support which cutbacks to historically under-funded services make less likely to be forthcoming as every day passes.

I’m always talking about these subjects on twitter. It suits my short attention span and lack of concentration and focus and the fact I have no editor to help me polish my rambling thoughts into something more ordered and punchy. Sometimes (rarely) when I have time I save my twitter conversations in Storify. Sometimes (more rarely) when I have time I stick a link to a Storify story on this blog, with the intention (rarely achieved) of writing it up into a blog later. Sometimes I write a blog piece and (even more rarely) I’m able to publish it. But mostly, mostly my writing is on twitter. That’s where my work is. That’s where my scattered thoughts are. There are a lot of them. But they don’t often make it onto this blog.

I find twitter suits me. I don’t see the 140 characters as a limit but a discipline, a spur to be succinct, an enabler of freedom that only requires me to keep focus till the end of the sentence. And in any case there’s no rule that I can only tweet once: I treat a tweet as a sentence in a paragraph, often linking tweets to make that more explicit. There’s no reason complex thoughts and concepts can’t be expressed on twitter, even if, as in my case, there isn’t any planning beforehand.

I get invitations to write for this journal or that publisher, to take part in this debate or that consultation, but twitter’s where I’m most at home. Writing in more than 140 characters can be a struggle.

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One Response to “140 characters”

  1. NeverBeNormalAgain 20 October 2015 at 6:57 am #

    All good points, I have missed your posts since I left twitter.

    One thing though – while media may not have the right to comment (and I believe everyone has the right to choose what kind of treatment they want) I have seen the opposite to pill-shaming personally, which for me is unacceptable.

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