Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Depression & Nightmares

15 22 Aug 2007. 1700 Hrs. Depression & Nightmares.

Right now I am experiencing one of those very scary moments we depressives have from time to time.

During the last Forty Eight Hours I have made two postings here, spent a wonderful “social” evening with my son, and, sorted out some potential Social Work Articles, overcome my fear of rejection, and submitted them to a magazine. I have also identified and printed some relevant wildlife photographs and, again overcome the rejection fear, and submitted these to a competition.

Why the scare? Because this activity is both a reminder of just how inactive I have been for weeks, and a possible indicator that I am about to zoom off in the opposite direction.
As usual there are also huge gaps in my memory of my “time away” so I am scanning what memory is there to try to discover whether I have done, or not done, anything during the period to cause upset or harm to others, or to myself. My discoveries so far are focused on too much money spent on CD’s and Cigarettes, not too bad because I can balance these by living on beans on toast for a while. (Pollyanna moment: This will also help my needed weight loss, and through that, my back pain).
It is because I am still on the Sad side of OK that I remain fearful. During the next twenty four hours I might slip back to that frightening place, or I might suddenly be filled with optimism and enthusiasm, both potentially fraught with danger so I have to hope the coin will land on the side marked OK.

I guessed change was on the way last night following a night of vivid dreams and nightmares, all completely different but all connected in some way. All containing people and places from my past, my present, and, who knows, my future?
On nights such as these I am woken, in either euphoria or fear, every couple of hours. These awakenings can be as terrifying as the dream itself but last night, (a possible indicator that I am on the up), I was able to hang on to reality and make a cup of tea and smoke a cigarette between each one to re-ground myself.

My nightmares are particularly vivid and very terrifying and if they become persistent over a few days are one of my few reliable indicators that I am going “down”. At these times the “nightmare” becomes a “day mare” on waking and I can continue to be haunted by the sights and sounds of the “mare” in a hallucinatory way right through to the point it picks up again as I eventually regain sleep the following night.
Scary enough at the best (or should that be worse) of times but particularly difficult during schooldays and my working life when I had to learn to concentrate very hard on the reality of the day and push aside the visions and sounds of the fantasy being played out in my head.

All depressive suffer some symptoms they do not tell the medics for years, (sometimes never) for fear this is the thing that will finally prove they are mad and lead to them being locked up. For that reason these “day mares” remained one of my “secrets” until very recently, brought into the open because with age I no longer care if people think I am mad, I no longer care myself if I am mad as that aspect of me is responsible for the best parts of me as well as the worse.
I wrote a poem about coming to terms with Mental Illness while I was attending the day hospital. It is based on my own experiences and on some of those of my colleagues. I wont post it here because it might be overlooked, I will post it next.

Luv Bri

"I am a Loony": Poem

Here is the poem I mentioned in my previous post “Depression and Dreams”. I hope it stands alone but If read in conjunction with that posting it needs no further introduction.

It is called: -

In Good Company.

I am a loony from the bin
Society puts its rejects in.
You’ve read about me in the Sun or Mail,
Where the headline without fail,
Will warn you that you might be stabbed,
Or even have your children grabbed,
By me, or others of my kind,
Whom you will inevitably find,
Asleep in doorways, scrounging money,
To spend on booze or dogs with runny
Eyes, that we appear to keep,
Rendering our poverty obsolete,
They’d rather us you did not see,
My other loony friends and me
Claiming the life we live we choose
Our smelly clothes, our worn out shoes
Our confused speech, our confused minds
Fuelled by drugs we somehow find
Regardless of our lack of dosh
We’d clearly rather “trip” than nosh.

Winston Churchill, Lady Di
Hans Christian Andersen, and Charles Ives
Spencer Tracy, Kurt Cobain
Michelangelo and Mark Twain,
John Lennon, Vincent Van Gogh
Gustav Holst, Rachmaninoff,
Tennessee Williams, Graham Greene,
All people you might not have seen
If judged on their illness alone
By the editor of some tabloid tome.

I am a funny from the farm
I promise I wont do you harm
Some of us might, that is true
But statistically so might more of you
I’ve never robbed, I’ve never killed
Believe me, I am much too ill
Like many from the funny farm
It’s me, not you, who I might harm
And during times when I am well
You would not know, you could not tell
I’ve raised my children, stayed in work
Social responsibility I’ve not shirked
I work hard to avoid that bin
Society puts its rejects in
But this illness descends without warning
Fine at bedtime, nuts in the morning
If we frighten you, then you should see
Just how scared we are, my friends and me
And if at times we slur our speech
It’s drugs from the medics, not drugs from the streets.

Mary Shelley and John Keats
Virginia Woolf, Louis MacNiece
Ernest Hemmingway, Henrik Ibsen
Marilyn Monroe, Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Charlie Parker, Anton Bruckner,
Sylvia Plath and Edward Elgar
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James,
All these and many other names,
Might not be known to you and me
If their madness alone the world did see.

I am a nut without a case
You’d never know it from my face
I’ve trained my countenance to hide
The torment that sometimes rages inside
If I seem ignorant when you ask
Please realise that the simplest task
Can seem immense at times like these
I’m standing, but I’m on my knees
It’s not your pity that I seek
Just understanding that this week
I might not be the man you know
I’ve lost me too, and now I’m so
Confused, bewildered, “off my head”
Contemplating being dead
The internal argument ensues
Could the loss of me be the making of you
While all that I ever achieved
Crumbles to nothing at times like these
And deep inside I’m forced to face
The truth. - I’m a nut without a case.

Charles Dickens, John Bunyan and George Fredrick Handel
Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland and Gerard de Nerval,
Rossini, Tchaikovsky, Edgar Alan Poe,
Spike Milligan, Cole Porter and Victor Hugo
T.S Eliot, Brian Wilson, and Alfred Lord Tennyson
Charlie Mingus, Lord Byron and Emily Dickinson
Noel Coward, Samuel Johnson, and Monticelli
All shared the illness with people like me,
This world would be a less cultured place
If they’d hounded these humans out of the race.

I’m round the bend, I’m up the creek
Without a paddle in a boat that leaks.
A political pawn who lives with social rejection
Until the next general election
When headlines scream that folks like me
Are never safe, should not be free,
And if you weaken, are not sure
They’ll ask if you want us living next door
They’ll jumble several diagnosis
To arrive at a Jekyll and Hyde prognosis
To fuel the fear in folks like you
That you can never tell what we might do
You’ll have to search very hard to find
That Schizophrenia just means “confused mind”
That those with the fictional “split personality”
Are folks with depression, people like me
But the “split” in us is not “good” or “bad”
It is loss of control of what’s happy or sad
It means loss of our jobs, children, husbands and wives
It means loss of the love that we once had for life.

I am a loony from the bin
that society puts its rejects in.
Like many from the funny farm
It’s me, not you, who I might harm,
It’s not your pity that I seek,
Just understanding that this week
I might not be the man you know. . . . . . . but I’m in good company.

© Bri 2005 (with “names” from

Big Brother and I

I have never been a big fan of “Soap Opera’s” because I believe they can trivialise, and make entertainment of, issues that are the cause of great distress to some people.

I am though a great fan of good “reality television”, (I guess it’s the people watching; amateur psychologist inside me that led me into Social Work). I am particularly a fan of “Big Brother” and when I was lecturing, I was one of only two people in the staff room who were prepared to admit this.

I think this series has been the best for some time. Because the “hysterics” and the “bullies” were evicted relatively early we have had a chance to get to know in depth the more interesting contestants who are usually inhibited by the aforementioned types of personality and end up being unfairly evicted for being boring. (I certainly would not feel able to be true to myself in the company of some of the characters from the last three series including the first six weeks of this one).

I am though (in forums and to Channel 4) a fairly strong critic of some of the “Psychologists” who lend their professional title to the “On The Couch” spin off show. As professionals I have a problem with them sanctioning “punishments” such as the withdrawal of basic necessities, food and sleep, which they know are character altering punishments pushing people to limits they will never experience to the same extent in their own lives, therefore providing inaccurate examples of the contestants’ real behaviour.

As a humanist I have a problem with those Professionals, and Channel 4, sanctioning actions outlawed by the United Nations Declaration Of Human Rights. The claim that contestants know what they are signing up to does not carry weight with me. Contestants on these shows have demonstrated a degree of desperation to become celebrities by entering the show in the first place, and in my opinion, no professional “carer” should be a party to taking advantage of this desperation and using it as an excuse to treat them in what (the U.N. would say) is an inhumane manner.

I was amazed a couple of weeks ago when one of these experts, (a psychiatrist I think), raised the name of my hero Erving Goffman:


and his (Goffman’s) concept of “Total Institution”. He quoted Goffman’s work to illustrate the way the contestants are adopting what Goffman would term an “Inmate Mentality”. Having done so I would have expected an ethical professional to also point out that Goffman also identified a “Staff World”. In this “Staff World” those trusted with the welfare of the inmates, lose sight of the humanity of their “inmates” and drive them to unacceptable levels of stress in the interest of experimentation, or, perhaps even worse, in the interest of entertainment. To explain this further I need to digress.

Did you see the Reality TV programme about three years ago in which people were split into Prison Officers and Prisoners. The programme was based on a “real” psychological experiment carried out during the 1970’s at the Department of Psychology, Stanford University, California, USA, under the director of Professor Phillip Zimbardo. The experiment went completely wrong, the students chosen to be Prison Officers became so absorbed in the power they had over fellow students chosen to be prisoners that they began to exercise their power over their colleagues in cruel and dangerous ways.

Equally alarming were the ways in which the “prisoners” submitted to the abusive treatment of the guards, giving in to the “role” imposed upon them even though they could have complained and walked away at any time they wanted to.

Following the premature ending of the experiment after the intervention of a third party Phillip Zimbardo admitted his surprise that he had become so involved in the research implications of the observed behaviour that he was desensitised to the affects of the abuses of power and the cruel treatment of the “prisoners”. It was in fact a professional colleague invited by Phil Zimbardo to observe what he (Zimbardo) still perceived purely as a marvellous experiment, who pointed out the inhumane ways in which the prisoners were being treated. Immediately Zimbardo was confronted with the fact that he and his team had become “task” as opposed to “people orientated” he called as halt to the experiment.

What has this to do with the Big Brother TV programme? Read on.

My concern is not only that the Big Brother Psychiatrist drew attention to the “Total Institution” aspects of the BB House without acknowledging this “Staff World”. I am further concerned that the Psychiatrist in question, along with other psychologists involved in the programme, appear to have been drawn into the excitement of being involved in the broader experimental nature of the programme. I think this occurs to such an extent that they no longer see the “real people” inside the one-dimensional characters the programme makers create through showing only certain characteristics of individual housemates.

There are times when the psychologists speak of the housemates in caring tones but the inferences they draw from housemate behaviour demonstrate, (usually through things that are not said), that they have no idea of the overall personality of the housemate. Their observations are absolutely out of step with the observations of viewers, posted on internet message boards, who observe the behaviour of the housemates as often as possible during any twenty-four hour period.

In the context of this article it is alarming how often the testers come up with a character trait that supports the trait of a housemate that is currently being emphasised by programme editors, and spoken of in detail by presenters of “spin off” programmes. Perhaps the most alarming thing is that the behaviour traits, (and subsequent “labels”) presenters attach to contestants based on these distortions of the truth, are often first identified and voiced by the most aggressive or spiteful characters in the house for negative reasons.

I wonder if these professionals ever take account of the possible long term affects for housemate Y about whom they say: “So here is the evidence that housemate X is correct to label housemate Y as dishonest”. Even worse, they forget that within their professional circle powerful terms such as “manipulative” or “paranoid” or “devious” are applied to clients with no judgemental intent. These terms might be the verbal currency of the professional but to the layperson some of these terms carry very negative connotations.

My major concern here has been the lack of acknowledgement of the existence of the “Staff World” dynamics between Medical Professionals, Presenters, and Programme Makers throughout the current (and previous) series of Big Brother in the UK. I could draw on many examples from the current series to illustrate the things I have said above, I think two, concerning the same young woman, will suffice.

This young woman suffered depression last year following the painful decision to abort a foetus and the subsequent break down of the relationship that had led to the pregnancy. The programme makers and their psychologists were aware of these factors (and those relating to her very stressful childhood) when they deemed her able to cope with the stresses incurred by housemates on the programme. A vivacious young woman initially, she gradually became visibly depressed as the series progressed. This was partly through forming a relationship with a man in the house in which the “experts” assessed she was being manipulated by the man to his own ends: and partly through being scapegoated and bullied by this seasons “villain”, who the experts chose to describe as being “assertive and honest”.

(This denial and minimising of bullying behaviour by all members of the production staff is not new, it happens every year, passed of as “Good Telly” by the presenters whose “Staff World” mentality appears to obscure the impact of such behaviour on those who are targeted and endure it.) A quick journey around the message boards provides insight to the outrage felt by observers whose opinions are not affected by the need to provide “Good Telly”).

As the weeks progressed the young woman began to react quite hysterically, sometimes within view the housemates group, sometimes in the supposedly supportive and protective privacy of the “diary room”. The bully and her clique began to label the woman “copy cat”, claiming she was falsely duplicating the behaviour of a popular contestant from the previous series. The presenters, as they have done consistently across all series, began to respond and repeat the persecuting group’s opinion’s, giving acceptance and showing approval of the persecutory behaviour.

In fact, the non-experts such as me, who inhabit the notice boards, could see at once a major difference between the behaviour of last year’s housemate and this years. Last years housemate would exaggerate her reactions to things she found unfavourable in a manner, which often left her laughing at herself. Our young woman this year was clearly in genuine distress, and making genuine requests for help, through her hysteria. One presenter who had found the behaviour of last year’s contestant entertaining and funny began to laugh at and joke about the distress of this year’s contestant. I was relieved when, for once, one of the psychologists told the presenter that we were observing genuine distress being expressed in a manner that was concerning. The reaction of the presenter was to continue laughing even while the psychologist was explaining this to her. She apologised saying, “I know it’s real but I can’t help finding it funny”. Despite having been told she was witnessing genuine distress the presenter repeated these actions and words many times during subsequent shows right up to the the point the contestant could take no more and walked off the show.

Absolute “Staff World” behaviour, and out of character. I believe (based on aspects of her personality shown on other programmes, and other editions of this one) that Davina McCall, the presenter, is a very caring lover of humanity. Her continuing belief it was ok to laugh, and to continue laughing even when told (basically), this is not funny, is excused in that Staff World in the interest of “good telly”. To please the other occupants of that “world” she put aside her own sensitivities and continued with the behaviour that is rewarded within the Staff World. For these reasons I can forgive Davina McCall but not the psychologist who I believe had an ethical obligation (particularly regarding the supposedly confidential Diary Room content), to say, this is real, these emotions should not be used for entertainment. Why didn’t he or any of his professional colleagues say these things? Because they also inhabit that staff world where the interests of the staff world, “Good Telly”, and possibly their own advancement within the medium, take precedent over the needs of vulnerable “inmates”.

Three weeks after the above incidents our vulnerable inmate had experienced the elation of thinking her main adversary had been evicted and having that happiness snatched away 30 minutes later when her adversary was readmitted. (I guess this was done in the cause of entertainment but just whose entertainment is unclear because the adversarial behaviour had led to almost universal condemnation and both media and private complaints to Channel 4).

The following week she became hysterical once again when asked to carry out a group task wearing what she perceived to be a “Pregnant Woman’s” dress. The half of the housemates with whom she had shared her history, with the exception of her adversary, all understood her predicament, the other half, including the man she usually turned to for support, berated her.

Here I can forgive the other inmates any shortcomings because they were all involved with their own stress in respect of their inmate duties. However, I once again found myself thinking, “Where are her protectors from the Staff World? The people she trusted with the most intimate secrets of her sad short life so they could take care of her whenever that was necessary”. These “power people” knew she had the abortion a few months ago. Even if the needs of the task led the task setters to forgot this history, she reminded them of it the second she said, “I can’t wear a pregnant woman’s dress”. Once again the culture of the Staff group overrode the needs of a vulnerable “inmate”. This, to such an extent, that the episode was shown for entertainment on both the main show and the spin offs. The producers, nor psychologists, provided balance by mentioning the history.

I started off here saying I am perplexed by the involvement of the Psychiatric and Psychological professions in the Big Brother TV show. I have explained my view that the “Staff World” culture of the programme leads them to act unethically, allowing the needs of “Entertainment” to take precedent over the human “rights” of people placed in a vulnerable position. I have expressed my opinion that these professionals have an ethical obligation to speak out and tell Big Brother when they see abuse of individuals taking place, that they have an obligation to remember that what is “Interesting Behaviour” to them, is possibly detrimental to the person on the receiving end of that behaviour. I also believe they have an obligation to point out that the negative behaviour of some individuals should be stopped in the long term interest of the individual, not encouraged in the name of entertainment.

Finally, in respect of the young woman whose experiences I drew upon to make the examples above, if she should ever read this I hope it is clear that I am full of admiration for the way she handled a very traumatic experience, and I am going to finish this piece with her words.

If I were a psychologist with a brief to advise on the welfare of people on a television programme, I think I might view it as throwing self on sword time if someone I had already known was especially vulnerable before she started out on the programme, walked out of the programme a few weeks later saying “I would have gone mad if I had stayed in there one more day”. Within the staff world of course they will all be saying “her choices, her responsibility”.

Luv Brian

Monday, 20 August 2007

Me and The Rubettes

I’ve not been too well but even so I was amazed when I visited here earlier today to discover it is over a month since I last posted. I have not written anything elsewhere either, a sure sign that as usual I’ve been even less well than I thought I was.

While I was away a lovely woman called Cathy from "Cathy's Ressurection Corner" followed up my request to visit and make suggestions that might improve this blog. She mentions extra spacing between paragraphs so I will be a day or two sorting that out before I get back to posting here properly. In the meantime I’d like to share with you this review I wrote to put on the Amazon as I returned to “the world” at the weekend.

The Very Best Of “The Rubettes”.
Spectrum Records: Compilation 1998: Cat No. 554 331-2.

What a gem this is. As a “record collector”, I keep an eye out for these compilations so I can replace vinyl lost, mislaid, or guiltily left behind, during my youth. To this end I have just catalogued and listened to four “best of’s” from the 60’s and 70’s. The others all fitted the usual pattern, the two or three hits from “back then” shinning through some fairly murky other tracks which serve to prove why those particular bands or artists ran out of steam, and then: THIS!!!!!

Now I must confess I was never a “fan” of the Rubettes and never owned any of their stuff, (The early Seventies were the years of marriage and new children for me so record buying had to stop. My “nights out” comprised working behind the bar of my local (the now defunct Beehive in Wallingford) where Mike, the Landlords son and I would drink away our wages once the punters had left.): the Rubettes were however, one of the few bands who caused me to put some of my beer money into the jukebox so I could hear clearly what the punters had been paying to listen to.

The tracks that impressed strongly enough for me to seek the band out thirty five years on are all on here, “Sugar Baby Love”, “I Can Do It”, and “Juke Box Jive” are all juke box classics, so imprinted from those Beehive nights that I have often found myself singing them during the intervening years. I decided they belonged in my collection about a year ago but doubted (very unfairly it seems) the wisdom of forking out for a whole cd for the sake of three tracks when the collection needs so many others. Consequently I have scoured many “Seventies Hits” type cd’s and ended up with three original takes of Sugar Baby but only re-recorded versions of the others. (Only is not supposed to be a put down here, the re-incarnations of this band are brilliant but when you know the original so well the “ambience” is not the same and the instrumentation cannot possibly be identical).

Anyway, while I have been cataloguing these “re-incarnations” the tunes have been haunting me to such a degree that I finally decided that buying an “originals” cd would be worth it regardless of the quality of the unheard tracks. At least I could check out if I remembered those other tracks authentically or whether I was just being a music snob. Boy am I glad I did this.

I remember that at the time of its release we had “Sugar Baby Love parts 1 and 2”, my three previous copies are all of part 2. I had hoped to find the slightly more up tempo part 1 on here and although that is not the case I think I now know the reason why so I can stop searching. From the notes, I learn (as is so often the case with “oldies”), of early personnel changes while the track was in the pipeline so I assume there might be contractual issues with the unmentioned Part 1. Apart from that original slight disappointment, everything else about this cd was pure joy.

Firstly: recognising that apart from the three tracks I had set out to “collect”, I have some recollection of each of the first nine tracks. The other six were also part of the soundtrack of my early twenties: car radio: Top of the Pops, etc: but if you were aware of the size of my song library you might be as impressed as I am that these hardly listened to tracks have stuck in my mind. Absolute quality both lyrically and musically, as for the rest, well, I am gobsmacked.

This cd opens with six simply brilliant examples of what “Glam Rock”, as a music Genre, rather than a costume drama, was all about. Although these tracks have all enthused me to revisit the band, “Juke Box Jive” in particular wonderfully illustrates the complete sound of the era, driving guitars and versatile pounding drumming (the Glitter Band used two drummers to get the same effect) supporting brilliantly harmonised powerful singing, all coming together and screaming “I bet you can’t keep your feet still”. No, I cannot, even when it stops.

But hold, I have yet to share the real “discoveries” I made here.
Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington wrote all the tracks named above. These two master songwriters of the Glam Rock Genre, were up there with Roy Wood: “Angel Fingers” and “See My Baby Jive”: the songs Chapman and Chinn wrote for mud: and Shephard and Rossal’s songs for The Glitter Band once their “Leader” had departed.

The real song writing jewels on here however belong to two members of the band, namely Alan Williams and John Richardson. Arthur Davis, writer of the “sleeve notes”, seems to imply that it was the desire of the band to leave Bickerton and Waddington that led to a decline in their popularity, this clearly was not the case. “You’re The Reason Why”: “Under One Roof”: and “Baby I Know”: (all written by Alan Williams and John Richardson) were all hits during 1976 and 1977: meanwhile rock genius Roy Wood failed to chart with an “original” after 1973 along with “Sweet”: Mud and Glitter Band faded from 1975

“Baby I know” is one of those lost gems of my past, a tune I have hummed for thirty years wherever music is discussed, begging in desperation, “one of you must know it”. I sort of remembered the title, but as soon as the music began, I felt that thrill of recognition and anticipation. This, (along with the aforementioned tracks) is a classic of the early seventies, prematurely consigned to the dustbin marked “obsolete”. The bullies of punk, and it’s supporters, (perhaps I should say bandwagon jumpers), among radio, TV, and the music press, telling us we didn’t need melodies or meaningful lyrics any longer: and that we were somehow deficient if we did: as they censored what we listened to. It was this media led change in public taste that saw the premature end of this band (and others) in the U.K (though not on the continent), and not the change of writers implied through the notes.

“Under one roof” provides beautiful, poetical insights to the experiences of those courageous enough to be openly Gay in the Seventies. As I was reminded of its qualities, and those of “You’re the reason why”, while, for the first time properly hearing “Kid Runaway”, I was aware that if they were released now these would be recognised as masterpieces of “Country Cross Over”, on a par with the three minute storytelling of Willie Nelson, Jim Webb, Don McLean and Ralph McTell. “Baby I know” also fits this category.

I could enthuse over all of the other tracks on here but if you still need convincing how vocally accomplished this band were shut your eyes and listen to “I’m just dreaming”. I defy you not to hear the surf breaking in the background as Beach Boy style harmonies, complete with subtle Mike Love style bass tones, wash over you. I have always remembered the Rubettes as a good band: I was wrong, they were a great band: buy this, and knock a few punk compilations onto the floor as you do so.


Saturday, 14 July 2007

Tough Week

This has been a very tough week (hence the shortage of postings). I've not felt like doing much at all so it's been a week of dragging myself to therapy, arguing with my analyst, (who seems to have misunderstood everything I've said, probably a reflection of the confusion within me), and coming home and arguing with myself about what to eat, whether to eat, whether to escape into sleep, or whether to sit her pretending to be creative but playing "free cell" instead. The latter was usually the winner.

I did manage to get myself out for a walk while my home help was here cleaning on Tuesday. She comes once a week to do the cleaning tasks, (hoovering etc.) that I am "advised" not to undertake in the interest of forestalling the wheelchair.

I drove to one of my local hangouts, Bedfont Lakes Country Park, where, because my membership to the private nature reserve has lapsed, I walked the public areas. This was my first walk of any consequence since the fall so I took my walking stick rather than my dual purpose monopod and was glad I did as I needed to bear down on the handle in order to negotiate the uneven ground off the gravel footpath in the public reserve.

I was soon rewarded when this stoat ran across the mowed grass footpath about 20 feet in front of me:

this is the first stoat I have seen in the wild and I was surprised at how small it was, I hope you can get some idea by comparing it with the daisies on the left of the picture. As it stopped running at the edge of the undergrowth I stopped walking and held my breath as I gripped my walking stick between my knees and raised my camera.

As you can see it turned and looked straight at me, expecting it to run straight off I took this a bit quickly but I shouldn't have worried, he/she then looked back to where it had come from and I got another six shots, similar to the first one, before it vanished into the undergrowth after about 30 seconds.

Now, I would have settled for that but with the thrill of the stoat giving my mind respite from the physical pain in my ankle and back I decided to walk a bit further to one of the public bird hides. AS I reached the hide I was aware of a great deal of noise above me and looked up to see a Black Headed Gull harassing a Common Tern. I love catching the wonder of flight with my camera and as I already have several pics of Black Headed Gulls I focused on the Tern. This was the result.

This was one of several Terns being chased by the Gull while returning to the floating breeding platforms where Chicks were waiting to be fed. I spent about 20 minutes watching and photographing the activity on and above the breeding platform before, body and soul refreshed, I returned to my car in time to beat the "school run" traffic home.

Luv Brian.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

A quick thought: 2

These machines in supermarkets that are labelled “Turn Your Coins into Cash” puzzle me. Now, perhaps I am stupid as well as mad, but I always thought that coins are cash.

I got a closer look at one of these machines yesterday and it seems that they mean they will count your coins and change them for notes or coins of higher amounts, and ONLY charge you 8 pence in every pound for doing so.

What will they think of next, cash dispensers that charge you for withdrawing your own money? Oh, seems they already have, I wish I was clever enough to think up money for nothing schemes like these.

Bomb Carrying Doctors! Why the Surprise?

I can never understand why the public are taken aback whenever a doctor commits a crime. The Doctors who carried out experiments on living Men, Women, and Children, for the Nazi’s in Second World War Concentration Camps had signed the Hippocratic Oath, Dr’s Crippen and Shipman had signed the Hippocratic Oath, GP’s who are struck off each year for sexually abusing female patients have signed the oath.

Why does the public expect Men and Women who carry out that profession to be somehow saintly and more above reproach than say a plasterer or a bus driver? Members of the Medical Professions are numerically over represented in national statistics regarding both Alcohol and Drug Abuse, not surprising given some of the things they see and hear, and possibly a sign that members of the profession are more prone to human failings than the rest of us.

During my own experience of working alongside Doctors as part of multi-agency teams for protecting children or the mentally ill I observed many things that proved just how “mortal” these “saints” actually are. I found:
1: That in a multi-disciplinary arena the “Doctor” always appointed him or her self as the leader.
2: Along with the above not being prepared to listen to any alternative to their own opinion.
3: Judging families (particularly within hospital) against a white, Christian, middle class norm.
4: GP’s prepared to pass concerns to Social Workers but playing those concerns down when on oath in court, or worse, denying that they were concerned at all.
5:Imposing his or her “ideals” on an unquestioning public, it seems that once a week now we are informed that some foodstuff or liquid that has been enjoyed across generations is bad for us.

This last point is well reflected in the way smoking and smokers have been persecuted over the past few years.

First, the revelation that smoking is dangerous, there is good evidence and those who want to give up or not start do so: next, the attack on passive smoking, the evidence of which has been greatly exaggerated, is used to alter our social life and our culture forever: and: finally: within two days of the new smoking law coming into being, we are hearing that they want to stop us smoking in our own cars. Now watch out sheep, if you let them win that they will be demanding the removal of radios, CD players, fluffy dice, and everything else that they can say “distracts”, until they have robbed us all of our individuality.

If you detect some anger creeping in here, you are right. The reason is a headline in the Observer newspaper yesterday. I will tell you what it was about in a second but first let me give some background.

Throughout my Social Work and lecturing roles, I was on multi-disciplinary teams looking at the ways the statutory agencies work together. An ever recurring question was the massive increase in the numbers of children, mainly boys, being diagnosed with “Aspurgers Syndrome” and Attention Deficit Disorder, both of which have been described as being on the Autistic Spectrum.

“Where have these things come from?” was the question from middle aged lay people like me to the medics, these things did not exist when we were kids.

Reasons from Poor Parenting to diet were presented by the medics who shouted down, often seeking to humiliate those like me who asked about the evidence from elsewhere linking these increases to the MMR injection. We were told this was rubbish by doctors who, not for the first or last time in my experience, set out to ridicule both the doctors who had collected the data, and those in the room seeking clarification.

I was not prepared to walk away from this issue. As someone who lost a brother to whooping cough before the injections existed, and saw multi-disabled newborn affected by Rubella whilst I was working at the hospital, I always agreed with the need to protect children from these illnesses. I was not however prepared to back down and deny or omit my experience that the increase in conditions on the Autistic Spectrum was in direct proportion to the number “guilt” messages being laid on mothers who did not have their children injected, that is to say that as the number of injected Children grew, so did the instances of Autism.

In meetings, doctors ridiculed me, and as a teacher I was verbally “attacked” by teachers from medical backgrounds because I asked a class to research and consider this evidence from an ethical perspective.

Anyway, front page headline on yesterdays Observer “NEW HEALTH FEARS OVER BIG SURGE IN AUTISM: Experts “concerned by dramatic rise: Questions over triple jab for children.

I guess I do not need to tell you that I am not surprised.
Luv Bri.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Goffman's Concept of "Total Institution"

This is the essay I refer to in my "Self Help" posting. A bit academic in places but should be of interest to anyone who lives or works in a hospital or in Residential Care.
Discus Goffman’s concept of “Total Institution” and the implications of “Total Institution” for Social Work Practise.
Brian Barefield. CQSW Year 2 Dec. 1991

Goffman, ("Asylums" 1961 p17), perceived; "A basic social arrangement in modern society - (to be that) - the individual tends to sleep, play, and work in different places, with different co-participants, under different authorities, and without an overall rational plan.” The antithesis of this arrangement was the "total institution"; " - a place of residence and work where a large number of like situated individuals, cut off from the wider society for an appreciable period of time, together lead an enclosed, formally administered round of life.” (ibid p11).

Here Goffman's work will be placed in its historical and societal contexts before discussion of the actors passage into the habitat of total instit­ution leads to discussion of the concept of "total institution". Goffman's emphasis on psychiatric institutions will be duplicated here through reference to the writer's clients' experiences1. Discussion of the implications for social work within total institutions will lead into a broader examination of the implications of Goffman's work for the social worker, this examination based on current alter­natives to total institution and with reference to the observations of Szasz, the anti psychiatry movement, and what Pearson (1975) terms the "misfit" sociologists. This discussion implies a political role for the worker which will be discussed at the conclusion of the essay.

Total institutions provide a logical solution to problems of deviance as perceived by the functionalist paradigm which is historically and currently the dominant ideology of most capitalist societies. The Interactionist school, which began with Mead and rose to prominence in the 1960's, provided alternative theories of deviance and in so doing produced the "labelling" and "stigma" theorists such as Goffman who emulated Mead in challenging the positivist definitions of Durkhiem and Parsons. The interactionist’s purport that deviance is a socially constructed phenomenon that needs separating from "delinquency" if it is to be understood.

Specific to the relationship of deviance to psychiatric illness Aubrey Lewis2 calls for a distinction to be drawn between the two on the grounds that; " - mental illness and deviance - differ in their referents, - mind and behaviour respectively - ."
Distinction also needs to be drawn within mental illness definitions for, as Szasz pointed out, (Busfield 1986 p81), psychiatry may have a place in the treatment of psychotic disorders but the neurotic and the "managed" psychotic patient are abused by psychiatry's systems. One abuse of such patients is admission into total institutions via a path which is now discussed.

Goffman claimed that the career of the mental patient falls into three phases, those of the prepatient; the inpatient; and the expatient. In discuss­ion of the first and last of these he illustrated the power of total institutions to exert influence beyond their physical boundaries.
In the case of the prepatient this power manifests itself through the "betrayal funnel", a conspiracy of family, health professionals and other helping agencies to seduce him into the institution through a series of linked stages each of which " - tends to bring a sharp decrease in adult free status - ", ("Asylums" p131).

[An example of one component of the funnel was given to me by X. At his initial hospital interview his 15-minute interview preceded a 1-hour discuss­ion between his wife, who had her own reasons for wanting him "away", and HIS psychiatrist. X, who had been encouraged to attend the "preliminary" interview by all of the agents involved with his case, did not return home from it].

Illustration here of Goffman's contention (p136) that; "The last step in the prepatient's career can involve his realization - justified or not - that he has been deserted by society and turned out of relationships by those closest to him.". He is also left with a clear perception of the power of the total institution, the all-encompassing nature of which will now be discussed.

Jones and Fowles (1984 Ch1) claim that the reader of "Asylums" should remain aware of four points. First: Goffman's main focus was on the inhabit­ants of the institutions rather than the institutions' physical components. Second: his research centred on the patient rather than on the staff. Third: whilst he identified five types of total institution Goffman did not claim to present a list of features for all cases but a set of features which are present in most cases, and: Finally: that Goffman did not purport to provide a guide for action.

Goffman described four major facets of total institution living which are categorised by Jones and Fowles, (ibid), as "Batch Living"; the "Instit­utional Perspective"; "Binary Management"; which creates the divisions between the "staff world" and the final facet; the "Inmate World". Discussion of these facets will now be made commencing with the concept of "batch living".

Batch living implies that "each phase of the member's daily activity is carried out in the immediate company of a large batch of others, all of whom are treated alike, and required to do the same things together."3. It is characterised by a bureaucratic management whose rules and regulations mean a tight schedule with little free time and no choice of living companions for the inmate.

[X, a Moslem, was refused recognition of his cultural or dietary needs. His protestations were attributed to his psychiatric problems, (looping), by staff who encouraged him to concentrate on the "positive" attributes of the institution. To adopt the instit­utional perspective which is now discussed].

Through his adoption of the institutional perspective the inmate is socialised into the belief that the institution is a beneficial and nice place to be. Staff: who sanction "removal activities" such as sports days, and "ceremonies" such as Christmas parties: combine with relatives: who through their reluctance to receive the patient home, or who cannot face their own feelings of failing the patient, repeatedly tell him how much good the institution is doing him: in practises which Goffman perceived to be well suited to a Durkheimian analysis, ( p102), and which hold the divided society together.

The division of staff from inmate, and the stereotypical imagery of each by the other that this facilitates, is characteristic of the "Binary Management" of total institutions. No matter how well the inmate is socialised into an institution's culture he will still encounter the social distance that exists between the two worlds. It is a distance which excludes him from decision taking and which keeps him ignorant of his own condition and fate. The ultimate achievement of his social­isation will be a movement between wards (Y related that status in the resident community is enhanced by the occupation of certain wards] but regardless of added status the inmate is still a puppet to the whims of the "staff world".)

This "staff world" is now explored.
Goffman highlighted a contradiction between what institutions say they do and what they actually do. Central to his observation was the fact that the staff who make policies are not the staff who implement them. It is lower echelon staff and not their managers who are the "tradition carriers" of the institution ( p107) as typified in a recent newspaper article 4 in which a Broadmoor hospital staff member of twenty years standing criticised a new, less militaristic uniform on the grounds that; "The old uniform was a symbol of authority.".

[Y perceived a dramatic change in personality when probationary staff changed from a yellow uniform to the blue one of a full staff member after 3 months].

It is such tradionalists who socialise new recruits into the role of the worker, a role which is more than just the "prescribed duties and reciprocal rights attached to a position.", (Goffman5).
Support for Goffman's [and Y's] observations of the detrimental effect on the inmate of the socialisation of the worker into role is implicit in Hudson's, (1982 p170), warning to hospital social workers not to become socialised into the institution's culture, that; " - being hospital based - carries the risk of losing some of the very qualities that make the social worker's contribution so valuable: awareness of things social, knowledge of ordinary life and resources in the community.".

Support for Goffman's "partial evidence" (Jones and Fowles p25) of these phenomenon is chronicled by Pearson, (ibid), and especially by Martin, (1984 pp.28/9), and Shepherd (1984 pp.85/91)6.

Goffman's assertion (p88) that some staff will suffer problems of conscience is typified in the previously mentioned newspaper article by a second officer who argues in favour of the new uniform that; "We are custodians of the mentally ill, not prison officers.". Evidence suggests however that this dilemma, which will be seen to be mirrored for the social worker, will not deter workers from affecting other's perception of the inmate through their subjective contributions to case conferences, to informal discussions about patients, and to patients' records.

They will use sanctioned violence against the inmates person and his will and they will employ the tactics of "looping", "tyranization" and "regiment­ation" to keep the inmate in his place and to preserve the social distance between inmates and themselves.

These tactics also play a crucial role in socialising the patient into the "Inmate World", the next facet of total institution to be discussed. Inmates are socialised into the inmate culture through a "mortifi­cation" process which comprises a series of systematic violations and degradations
[Y was strip searched and then forced to bathe while observed by three officers on her admittance to a "special" psychiatric provision]. Given names are replaced by staff or inmate attributed ones and "disculturation" is facilitated by "contaminative exposure", looping and a "privilege system" [going to the toilet unobserved was a "privilege" in Y's institution].

From within her world the inmate develops her "career line", establishes her place in the "underlife" hierarchy and develops her own "removal activities"
[Y would feign "intransigence" in order to receive an injection which "got my head out of there for three days" ].

The acquisition of the "institutional lingo" facilitates communication as the inmate proceeds through the four "secondary adjustments" which Goffman perceived to be developmental landmarks of her career. These adjustments, namely "withdrawal", "intransigence", "colonis­ation" and "conversion", further socialise the inmate into a way of being which is ultimately less acceptable to society than the "symptoms" of her original "illness" may have been; " - total institutions disrupt or defile precisely those actions that in civil society have the role of attesting to the actor and those in his presence that he has some command over his world.", ("Asylums" p47).

Support for Goffman's perception of the negative attributes of institutional care proliferate social work literature in guises such as "Institut­ional Neurosis"7, "Institutionalism"8, and "Social Breakdown Syndrome"9.

Such evidence would seem beg an end to institutional care, but, as Goffman (p124) observed, for some people, "entrance to the mental hospital can sometimes bring relief.". Shepherd (p10) relates that some inmates were identified by Mann and Cree to be "asylum seekers"; that is inmates who prefer the security of institutional life to the unpredictability of the outside world. These inmates accounted for 5% of psychiatric inmates in a sample taken in 1976. Additional support for the existence of total institution for some psychiatric patients is provided in Hudson's (p166) observation that; "some psychiatric patients need the surveillance, rest from stress and responsibilities, and intensive treatment that only an inpatient facility can provide".

After arguing that the major role of the social worker inside such institutions is to "contribute in helping to reduce the ill effects, and maximise the benefits of hospital care." Hudson provides insight into how this may be done, (pp.166/70). She also perceives a political role for the worker in effecting policy change (p170), and it is in this context that she issues the warning quoted earlier against the social worker becoming socialised into the institution and thus less effective in this role. A warning to the worker implied by Goffman's observations would be to take account of the consequences of the "deference" which the inmate will show to her position. ("Asylums" pp.107/8).

Here we reach the conclusion of discussion of the concept of "total institution" and the implications of that concept for social work practice within asylums.

Two areas of consequence emerge from the discussion, the first client orientated and the second worker orientated. Simply; the first requires the worker to adopt a political stance which argues for the patient’s rights and against stigmatisation from as early as is possible in the patient’s career. The second set of consequences beg social work to look to itself. In this second context social workers should remember that they too are members of an institution which " - captures something of the time and interest of its members and provides something of a world for them; (which) - has encompassing tendencies.", ("Asylums" p12). For this reason the following discussion of social works community role with the mentally ill, though alluding to casework practice, will concentrate on the less well defined roles which are implicated by the analysis of the concept of total institution and which have implications for social work practice during all three patient phases.

For some, "halfway house" therapeutic communities offered an alternative to total institution. Goffman however perceived the limitations, and the potentially damaging effects of the communities which were set up within total institutions (p139) by exponents of this philosophy such as Maxwell Jones, (1968). The therapeutic communities which were set up in the wider community were also perceived to embody a social control function in which "contaminative exposure" and "the piston effect" are instigated in the name of "therapy" with greater frequency than would occur in "total institutions", (Sharp 1975).

Other community-based social work with psychiatric patients has evolved as a consequence of consecutive mental health acts since the 1950's. Martin (Ch.1), and Busfield (Ch.10), both perceive this evolution to have been facilitated by the discovery of the psychotropic drugs and to be driven by financial expediency rather than by any altruistic reasoning. Changes in legislation led to an end to compulsory admission of patients in most instances. The new legislation also facilitated a mass evacuation of long-term inmates into the community. With the implementation of each of the new acts new roles were designated for the social worker culminating in 1983 with the advent of the "approved" social worker and the acquisition by the profession of the ultimate responsibility for sanctioning the compulsory admittance of non-delinquent psychiatric patients. This legislation threw the "approved" social worker in at the deep end of the social control or social welfare dilemma.

Busfield (p8) locates the beginnings of this dilemma in the 1960's when; the problem was "less any inherent defects and deficiencies of medical practice than the application of medical ideas and techniques to this particular sphere:". She claims (p10) that Szasz, Laing, and Scheff; " - offered alternative ways of thinking about psychiatry and mental illness in which mental illness is generally viewed as a form of social deviance and psychiatry as a form of social control.". While Martin (p28) saw the implications of Goffman's work at this time to be separate from the arguments of Szasz and Laing, Busfield does not and the link from medical to interactionist philosophy is clear in her contention (p87) that; "While Szasz points to the social control that psychiatry effects in the name of care and cure, his objection is not to the control of behaviour as such, but to the fact that the control is hidden and unacknowledged, and is exercised by others rather than the individual. If there is to be social control - - then its real nature should be visible." Pearson (p126) sums up the dilemma for social work thus; "Very loosely, it is possible to say that social work is faced with the problem of whether it is an agency which enlarges human freedom or restricts it, - ".

The dilemmas posed in implementing community care are not only ethical ones however. When Martin (Ch.2), chronicles the progress of community provision for the mentally ill from the 1950's to the 1980's he perceives the social work contribution during this time to have been marred by workers and administrators who directed their talents and their finances respectively towards the more attract­ive client groups. He cites evidence. At the beginning of the 1960's only 25% of social workers in this field were trained and that figure had risen to only 50% by 1972. This apathetic approach was mirrored by administrators who by 1970 had employed only half of the perceived optimum number of workers, never neared the recommended number of community facilities, and concentrated financial resources in other, more visible, areas. [For example Berkshire Social Services allocate only 4% of their annual budget to this client group despite the fact that 1 in 7 of people in its area are potential clients10). This apathy continued throughout the 1970's (Martin Ch.3) alongside a recurring passion for self-analysis that continually altered the focus of social work with the consequence that; " - there developed among psychiatrists and many of their colleagues an almost universal impression that the mentally ill receive scant attention from the reorganized services - (due) - to the emergence of entirely different and unanticipated priorities." (op.cit. p38). Of the advent of the approved social worker following the 1983 mental health act Martin (p64) hopes for a political role for this worker but warns, in the light of previous experience "of the overloaded social worker" that one should "guard against over optimism here".

Ann Davies and Lynne Muir (1984) examine the perceived community role of the approved social worker. In a section of the book subtitled "Issues relating to the delivery of service" they outline the practice issues relating to the development of community services. In the light of the experience of X which was discussed earlier it is pleasing to note that Muir (Ch.14) perceives the social worker to have a particular role in educating multi-disciplinary teams in the needs of ethnic minorities. Martin is critical of social works ability to fulfil its functions claiming that as a consequence of its ill-defined role social work has little benefited the client group in question, (p96).

Other commentators are critical of social works ability and motiv­ation to deliver. They also criticise social work for its introspection; "Social work emphatically embraces human subjectivity and regards itself as a carrier of the humane tradition of compassion: it also sometimes behaves as if it were the only carrier of that tradition, and critics have taken social work to task for this." (Pearson p128). Busfield (pp.368/9) locates social workers amongst a group of "new mental health professionals" who are challenging the psychiatric stronghold but who she laments have already allowed themselves to be subordinated within a medical hierarchy. Hudson claims, (pp.172/4) that the profession leaves itself vulnerable to relegation to subordinate positions because of the reluctance of its workers to make detailed study of relevant research; "If we believe that it is part of our respon­sibility to seek change at any level, then it is a matter of professional ethics to keep up with research." (p173).

It can be seen that social work is perceived to be failing in its application of client targeted solutions to the implications of Goffman's observations. Discussion now follows of the political implications of those observations for social work practice.

From her critical analysis perspective Busfield sums up the argument of all the professions implicated here when she says; "The argument is that instead of directing all our resources and attention on to disturbed individuals, important though it is to ameliorate their situation, we need also to look beyond the individ­ual to forms and levels of intervention which would make mental disorders less likely for the population as a whole, or for particular groups within it." (p369). One strategy is implied through Pinkners (1971/6 p174) assertion on behalf of the stigmatised client that "Concepts like "the caring society" and the "welfare state" are subjectively meaningless to those who have not achieved citizenship in an authentic form. It may be that effecting changes in the consciousness of ordinary people is now becoming more important than further changes in the statute book.". Martin, however, exposes the futility of expecting public opinion or parliamentary intervention to assist in the fight, (p27), " - there is no particular reason to suppose that mental health issues ever assumed a burning importance for the majority of citizens, any more than they did for the majority of their parliamentary rep­resentatives.". Martin also argues (Ch.12) that successful political lobbying is best achieved by unified social groups. He is particularly critical of the political. indifference of social workers which sees only 40% of them in their own professional association, a fact which renders them politically impotent not only at the macro level but also at the micro level in discussion for patient rights with medicines professional bodies. The need for a unified approach by workers against the positiv­ist political and medical definitions of the problems of this client group, which are implicated by Goffman's examination of total institutions, is implicit in Busfield's (p370) contention that it is " - a political matter and requires debate and action in the political arena. It is political interests and political oppos­ition to more radical social interventions that maintains the curative approach.".

Identification of this less obvious, but most important, political social work role brings to a conclusion discussion of Goffman's concept of "total institution" and a consideration of its implications for social work practice.

In the first part of the essay examination of Goffman's concept of "total institution" revealed an anti-social, potentially damaging environment which in addition to its damaging effects for the in-patient, also had the power to affect the quality of life of both the pre-patient, through a "betrayal funnel", and the ex-patient, through stigmatisation. It was clear that "Processes of secondary socialisation and remobilisation reinforce feelings of inferiority in so far as they have more time in which to take effect. Institutionalisation adds the dimension of intensity to that time.", (Pinker. ibid.).

As the implications of "total institutions" for social "casework" were discussed a perceived political role for the worker inside such institutions was highlighted. For, as Martin (p171) says; "The concerted action of a professional group, or at any rate of a significant and vocal fraction, may be a necessary precondition of change; and in the case of community mental health services, this commitment has been conspicuously lacking - ."

Discussion of the community role for the worker which is implicated as an alternative to "total institutions" also led to the identification of an informed political role for the social worker. Hudson (pp.173/4) argues; "Social work as a profession has a duty to add its contribution to the general store of knowledge that will sooner or later lead to more humane and more effective services." She argued that this contribution should stem from social work research obtained through a research function which should be added to the social work task.

Social work’s uninformed position was one aspect of criticism when reference was made to the views of anti-psychiatry, psychology, and "misfit" sociology. Examination revealed a universal cynicism of social works application to the implicated issues. A perceived impotence to serve the client effectively was seen to emanate from the apolitical culture of a fragmented profession.

In conclusion the major implication of the concept of "total institution" would appear to be a need for social work to agree its place in the social welfare, social control debate from which much of its practice emanates. If that agreement endorses the provision of community alternatives to "total institution" social work practice should encompass the role of politically motivated advocacy for its non assertive client group, not least because sociological evidence " - suggests that localities vary markedly in their capacity to meet their own inhabitant's social needs, and that the concept of the self supporting community is peculiarly fictional - " in some areas, (Martin p94).


1. The writer has worked with psychiatric patients during each of the three phases identified by Goffman in both the voluntary and the professional sector for the past sixteen years. Most recently this work took place in a therapeutic community which sought to rehab­ilitate psychiatric patients who had spent significant periods of time either in prison or in "special" psychiatric hospitals. X is a composite of the males who resided there and Y is a composite of the females.
2. Here quoted by Busfield (1986) pp.94/5.
3. Goffman, here quoted by Jones & Fowles (1984) pp.13/14.
4. "A Mail on Sunday reporter", "Broadmoor puts on the caring style." The Mail on Sunday, November 18th 1990. Page 29.
5. Goffman in "Where the action is" (1969) here quoted by Stephenson (1978)
6. Relates the research of Jack Tizzard who "operationalised" Goffman's ideas.
7. Russell Barton. Related by Jones & Fowles (1984) pp.71/77.
8. Attributed to Wing & Brown (1970) by Shepherd (1984) page 6.
9. Attributed to Gruenberg (1967) by Shepherd (1984) page 6.
10. Figures obtained during interview of the A.D.D. Mental Health, Reading Social Services, by the writer for his social policy project, C.Q.S.W. course, April 1990. The 1 in 7 ratio comes from figures supplied by MIND and relates to patients in all three patient phases across the country.

Busfield. J. "MANAGING MADNESS: Changing ideas and practice." Hutchinson & Co. London. 1986.
Davis. A. "Developing Comprehensive Local Services." Chapter 12 in Rolf Olsen. (1984)
Davis. A. "Working with other professions." Chapter 15 in Rolf Olsen. (1984).
Muir. L. "Working with volunteers and self help groups." Chapter 13 in Rolf Olsen. (1984).
Goffman E. "Asylums" Pelican Books. England. 1961/8
Hudson.B.L. "Social work with psychiatric patients." Macmillan Press. London. 1982.
Jones.M. "Beyond the therapeutic community." Yale. U.S.A. (1968).
Jones. K. & Fowles. A.J.
"Ideas on Institutions" Routledge & Kegan Paul. London. (1984).
Muir. L. "Teamwork" Chapter 14 in Rolf Olsen. (1984).
Pearson. G. "The Deviant Imagination: Social work and Social Change." Macmillan. London. 1975.
Pinkner. R. "Social Theory and Social Policy." Chapter 4. "Exchange and Stigma." Heinmann. London. 1971/6.
Rolf Olsen.M.(Ed) "SOCIAL WORK AND MENTAL HEALTH a guide for the approved social worker." Tavistock. London. (1984).
Sharp. V. "Social control in the Therapeutic Community." Saxton House. 1975.
Shepherd. G. "Institutional care and rehabilitation." Longman. England. 1984.
Stephenson. G. "Social Behaviour in Organizations" Chapter 13 in :
Tajfel. H. & Fraser. C. (Eds).
Martin. F.M. "BETWEEN THE ACTS. Community mental health services 1959-1983." Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust. London. 1984.

The reader may be interested in the backgrounds of the major authors (Goffman excepted) who are quoted in this text.
Joan Busfield is a trained clinical psychologist who now lectures in sociology. Barbara Hudson is an ex psychiatric social worker who now lectures in applied social studies.
F.M Martin is a professor of social administration
Geoffrey Pearson is an ex social worker who now lectures on Human Socialisation.

Self Help Books

Over the years I have been given these to read by well meaning friends and relations. I have just checked Amazon and they are all still available. These are my thoughts about them.

“Self help for your nerves”: Claire Weeks.
Although I had experienced (and managed to keep hidden) two episodes of “Adult”* depression by then, during 1978 I suffered my first “Breakdown” requiring medical intervention. An Aunt who had herself experienced “Nervous Breakdown” sent me a copy of this book because she had found it helpful.

I guess this is where the difference between “Nervous Breakdown” and “Clinical Depression” showed. All the book did for me was to “prove” to me that I was, and always had been “Mad”, when, I skimmed the self-help suggestions because I was incapable of carrying out her suggestions, thus boosting my feelings of inadequacy, and focused on the section that outlined the symptoms of the various psychiatric illnesses.

I learned a valuable lesson here and throughout my “counselling” and “social work” roles always offered clients who I thought might benefit a list of books which they could dip into in the library before making their own choice about which was most beneficial to them. The “right” book, like the right therapy, is a very subjective thing, and I believe that, as with the latter, clients must feel comfortable with what is offered if they are to derive real benefit and growth.

* I distinguish the difference between my “Child” and “Adult” Depression as being the point at which I realised my fate was in my own hands and my “death wish” changed from “I wish I was dead” to “How can I kill myself”.

“The Power of Positive Thinking”: Norman Vincent Peale.
The Seventies and Early Eighties saw the rise of Behavioural and Cognitive therapies in the U.K. They were the only treatments available on the NHS because it was claimed that “outcomes” could be measured while the outcomes of “talking” therapies could not. (I disagree with both of these assertions, as you will see when I post my “Models of treatment” section).
The professionals I was referred to during this period kept dropping me the term “positive thinking” so when I saw this book I was drawn to it.

Written from a Christian perspective it, (in the way AA does with addiction), encourages the reader to replace their negative thoughts with religion.
Because of my alienation from organised religion I found many of the concepts and strategies in the book unpalatable, particularly as it seemed to advocate manipulating the Christian ethic for personal gain (see footnote). It did however give me two Mantra’s from scripture that I still use to boost my confidence during periods of stability.
These are: -
“I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” and “If God be for me who can be against me”.

Footnote: Horses for courses.
I had a mature student, a very devout Christian who had internalised the “humility” aspects of the faith to an extent that was detrimental to him. To pay his way through the course he was allowing his willingness to please to be exploited by two unscrupulous employers and he would never promote himself forward in the classroom. This led some lecturers to define him as lazy and others to perceive him as timid and unlikely to pass the oral components of the course.
As a “tutorial” task I got him to prĂ©cis this book for me. As I had hoped he took on the message that being a good Christian does not mean being a doormat. It was wonderful to see him coming out from beneath “Christian” shell.

“I could not catch the bus today” David Lazell

Loaned to me by a friend during my agoraphobic period this book also advocates the application of Christianity as a solution to the problem.
All it did for me was to reinforce my feelings of inadequacy, as I was unable to effect the same changes in myself.

The books that have been most helpful to me in understanding both my illness and my behaviour are those I found in the College Library, when, following my period of intensive therapy in a psycho-dynamic therapeutic community, I got my self well enough to gain employment in professional social work and then to be sponsored for the Certificate of Qualification in Social Work (CQSW) course.

These are:
“On Becoming A Person”: Carl Rogers.
In addition to helping my self understanding (and self forgiveness) this book and the “Client Centred Therapy” that Rogers advocates in his counselling books, seemed to validate my self constructed Christian living model and provided me with a “Humanistic” philosophy on everyday living that I could utilise.

The Divided Self”: R.D.Laing.
Mainly an exploration of Schizophrenia, and much harder reading than the other books here, I took from this and Laing’s other writings the concept of Social Constructed mental illness. It offered me insight to those aspects of my personality that others were attributing to my illness but which I knew were just attributes of my own personality that were different to the accept norm.

“The Psychology of Personal Constructs”: George A Kelly.
The first cognitive based philosophy that made sense to me, mainly because it looks at the way people think without making tenuous links to the animal kingdom. Further understanding of some of my thought patterns to link with humanistic values I had acquired.

“Asylums”: Erving Goffman.
Insight to the way the system had abused me (confirmation that my illness was not responsible for some of my negative thoughts about “the system” as I had been encouraged to think by those perpetrating the abuse), and insight to the ways I had utilised the fear of my illness to abuse myself.
I became such a fan of Goffman that my Sociology tutor urged me to publish the essay I wrote applying his theories to my own professional and personal experiences.
As my lecturer, Prof. Clem Adleman, was a friend of his, and had discussed Goffman’s ideas with him first hand, this gave my confidence the greatest boost it had received since the days of Margot Theophilus (see Creative Writing 1).
I intend bringing the Essay up to date by including my experiences since 1990 but in the meantime I will post the original here (see Goffman) for any of you who might wish to read it.

“Mr God This Is Anna” Fynn.
I was given his amazing, delightful, wonderful book by a friend. It proved to me once and for all that there are many ways of enjoying the life of Christ and of putting his teaching into practice, without the dogma of organised religion. I return to it time and time again and find that the world it describes and the characters who come alive through the writers love and skill can make me laugh and cry each time with the same freshness as very the first reading.

Luv Bri

Thursday, 5 July 2007

I Wonder: 1

I wonder what birds think when they see people up trees.

I wonder how cats feel when they learn what those shiny things in the middle of the road are called.

I wonder how dogs react when people say "it's a dog's life" in a negative way.

I wonder why people let their dogs shit everywhere.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Critics of Social Workers

Did you see the programme last night about the parents whose children were wrongly taken into care. I thought it was very sad, both for the parents and for the children, but I wondered why Social Workers were being called to account for their actions when it was perfectly clear that both Social Services and the Courts acted at the time on the basis of "expert" medical opinion that stated one of the children could not have been injured any way other than deliberately.
It was the same in 1989 when in the "Cleveland Report" Lady Butler Schloss (who chaired the enquiry) clearly stated that mis-diagnosis by a Paediatrician lay at the root of the problem. She shared responsibility for the way the mis-information was put into practice equally between the Police and Social Services but all of the Media criticism was aimed at the Social workers.
The Daily Mail is particularly vehement in it's persecution of Social Workers. I was interested to hear that last nights programme was co-funded by the Mail on Sunday. I smiled ironically because I know how damning of Social Workers the headlines of those papers would have been if the doctors had been right and Social Services had left the children at home and one of them had been injured more seriously, or killed.
I am no fan of Social Services, their treatment of me when I became disabled and was no longer able to do the work they employed me to do was outrageous, and included trying to discredit work of mine they had previously complimented, in an attempt to reduce the payment I was entitled to under the circumstances of my leaving.
They did not succeed but by putting me "under investigation" they removed any possibility of me receiving support from my work colleagues who are "advised" not to contact colleagues under those circumstances, and who did not feel able to contact me even after I had left, presumably because they did not want their own records to be contaminated.
So, I am no supporter of Social Services or sloppy Social Work. As a manager I came down very hard on Social Workers whose practise was not up to scratch.
However, I am a supporter of current child protection legislation and, knowing of the stresses on individual workers who implement that law, I know the job is tough enough without workers having to balance what the media might do to them if they make a mistake.
I know of circumstances where that threat caused my managers to err on the side of caution to an extent that workers relationships with clients were compromised because those managers, who never met the families, forced my staff, through me, to take a tougher line than the case merited.
There are even poachers turned gamekeepers, ex social workers who form agencies and take extortionate amounts of public money by "reviewing" difficult cases through paperwork exercises using files (always with mistakes because overloaded workers do not have the time to maintain then properly), to almost invariably find fault with the workers because that is the way they justify their existence and ensure getting further work.
The reality of Children and Families Social Work is that one experienced worker might be holding up to 30 "at risk" cases which means responsibility for may be 50 odd "at risk" children. They work in hostile, frequently violent environments in which many are injured each year. At the time I qualified older workers were lamenting changes in child care law that forced them to involve parents in the decision making process, not because it was a bad idea, but because there is not time to do that and to keep the needs of the child "paramount" as the law requires.
Ten years after retiring from Social Work I still have nightmares about things I saw, and things children told me, while I was doing "case work".
Social Workers are an easy Media target because codes of confidentiality designed to protect the clients prevent them, or their managers, from discussing the most relevant part of concerns about the work. You will not read in the Daily or the Sunday Mail of the high number of Social Workers who are attacked and injured, (and some murdered) while carrying out the role society asks them to fulfill.
If the Media want to attack someone, they should attack a society which, through the courts and sentencing, places a higher value on stolen mobile phones than it does on Children's innocence and on Children's lives: and the lamentably small amount of money that is given to Social Services by comparison to other "front line" public services. You are unlikely to read such things in the right wing Media who want to discredit wherever possible because they do not perceive there to be a need for such services in the first place.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Some pomes wot i rote

I think I’ve probably written creatively from the time I learned to form my letters.
As a young child I spent a lot of time in a world I had created in my head in order to escape the parts of the world I did not like. I guess it was a natural progression to get some of that world down on paper once I was able to and writing stories or “composition” was my favourite (that’s an understatement, it was probably the only thing I enjoyed) at both Infant and Junior School.

The first poem I can remember writing was for a school competition when I was 10. We had to write about Christmas and the winning poems were shown in schools all over the County (Oxfordshire). Anyway, mine was a winner, the only lines I can remember now are:
“The tree we decorate in our house
Came to us from Queen Victoria’s spouse”
(Not literally of course. Lol.)

The next one I remember was written about two years later for and about the girl next door who I adored with the childhood “love” and innocence that was lost soon afterwards (I suspect even earlier for kids today: sad.). Anyway, my Sisters came across this poem in the place where I had hidden it while I plucked up the courage to hand it on, the teasing was more than I could bear so I denied my love (coward) and destroyed the poem.

For various reasons school became a very difficult place for me to be for a couple of years and I truanted more often than I attended. Things might have been different, I passed my eleven-plus but my family could not afford the extra expense that attending the nearest Grammar School would incur. Some, including my Mum, have supposed that more stimulation at the Grammar School might have held my interest but I doubt that, I think my fear of school was part of a more generalised fear of the whole world and a symptom of the childhood depression that the medical profession refused to acknowledge until recently.

So, it was the original Secondary Modern school for me. A place where the girls were taught to be seamstresses, cooks, secretaries or hairdressers while boys learned how to make things from bricks, wood or metal. (I have never forgotten our end of school career interviews. We had to tell the whole class of our ambitions and were laughed at by the teachers if our dreams did not meet one of these “chosen” occupations).

At fourteen I decided I ought to do something about my attendance or I might not get a job when I left at fifteen. My saviours as I battled through the longest year of my life were “Maggsy” and “Stoner”, two companions with a sense of humour as daft as my own, and Mrs Margot Theophilus, my English teacher, an Australian and one of the few graduates among the teaching staff. As I write this, I remember that in each of my two most complete Secondary School years, the first (with Anthony Barham) and the last, I had English teachers who appreciated my work.

In Mrs Theophilus’ case, she admired the content rather than the appearance. Each of the poems I am about to copy here was awarded a “merit” by her and transferred to her special “honour” book but all of them also have a comment, in red ink, lamenting my poor handwriting skills. A typical example on the one in front of me which comes complete with inkblots, smudges and crossings out reads:

“Merit: Could be neater: You were to “rough” copy it at home not in class”. Oh well, I tried.
Anyway, the poems you are about to read are my longest survivors. I must have written them between September 1964 and February 1965, so I was aged 14 years and nine months and 15 years three months. I left school in April 1965 aged 15 years and 5 months. This (unabridged and unedited) is the sort of work Mrs Margot Theophilus was encouraging me to produce at that time.

“Tall Men.”
Tall men in the field
Arms outstretched
Reaching, for nothing

Tied to each other
By thin, thin cable.
Bringing electric
To home, shop and stable.

Down it comes.
Dark and Grey.
But it goes just as quickly
It wafts far away.

“A Name”
What’s a name for?
Why can it be?
Not just to save being called
A, b, or c

“A Friend”
A friend is something everyone needs
But not all have.
When we are sad
Our feelings they save.

Are you still with me, good! I think there are signs in the last two of the isolation that was beginning to overwhelm me but perhaps I am being too analytical. If I remember rightly that lot was set as a homework task, we had to choose one but I enjoyed them so much I did that lot myself and then, for a small fee, wrote some more for some of my friends who also got merits lol. I had to be careful though, the school culture was not supportive of male poets and one or two of the more macho male members of staff made it very clear that they had learned of my “talent” and left me in no doubt of what they felt that said about me as a person.

While I have my doubts that the Grammar School (for different reasons) would have felt a more supportive environment, I sometimes wonder how different my life might have been if, during my last year, I had felt able to tell the teaching staff that I would have liked a job in journalism, one of my fantasies back then. I think Mrs Theophilus might have been very pleased. Here is another that made her “honour book”.

The leaves are scattered on the ground
Red and Golden all around:
As Golden leaves before us lie
Still more are falling (falling) from the sky
A carpet made of Gold-Red leaves
Which flutter to earth on a gentle breeze.

We wander through the leaves and peep
At the squirrels preparing for their long sleep.
They scurry around, to and fro,
Gathering nuts to make their stores grow.
The birds are migrating, going south
With exceptions like Robins, Blackbirds, and Grouse.

The babbling brooks are meandering slow,
Waiting ‘till ice diminishes flow.
The gentle light peeps through the branches
And on to streams where it gently dances.
The days are shorter
The nights more long
The trees now bare
For summer has gone.

I notice in the middle of the squirrel verse she has written, in red ink of course, “their X 20” because I had written “thier”, a mistake I would still make if my computer did not correct me because I internalised the “I before E except after C” rule too well.

This last one is dated Feb. 9th. That’s two weeks after Winston Churchill’s death on Jan 27th 1965. and just over a week since his funeral on Jan 30th.
I remember the latter well because it was a Saturday and I was doing my Saturday job as van boy for a travelling greengrocer. Although I was aware of Churchill’s greatness through my Gran (her bio to follow soon) I was amazed that every adult who answered the door that day was in tears. My interest was maintained because his final resting place at Bladon was in a village only about 30 miles from my own.
I recall at some point writing a much longer poem chronicling his entire life but this one I wrote with my memories from that Saturday still in my mind.

“Sir Winston Churchill - Departed in Spirit Only”
“Earth to Earth, Ashes to Ashes”
Slowly the coffin sinks from sight
But the memory of this great man,
Of the way he transformed wrong to right
Will never sink, and where ere It’s told
His story will bring thrills for young and memories for old.

A man with a flair for adventure
With nerve of solid steel
Has slipped from this world to the next:
A soul that surly must be blessed.
A man who did his very best has gone
But his memory will linger on.

So there you have it, the last poem I wrote for Margot Theophilus. It’s the one she commented might have been neater and when I see the beginning of a third verse crossed out on the page I have to agree with her, lol.
It must have been soon after writing this poem that I had a bad accident on my bike and, as a result, missed my fourth year exams. There seemed no point continuing at school, and Mum needed the money, so during the Easter holiday I got a job and never returned.
“Teen age” was just beginning in the mid sixties. I, and others like me, were expected to be school kids one day and adults the next. Without health and safety regulations in the workplace, and with the threat of Nuclear War an everyday concern, the world was quite a scary place. My poetry was never so innocent again and when I resumed writing at eighteen it was mostly about the darkness in my mind and a seemingly dark world outside it.
Luv Brian July 2 2007.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

where did the week go?

What a week. I think.
After I posted on Tuesday I began to feel really good but suddenly it’s Sunday and I don’t know where the week has gone.
I know I felt well the day after I started the anti-biotics but have since been very tired, almost in a daze.

The pain in the ankle was getting very wearing so it could have been the release from that, or perhaps it was my mind relaxing following the relief from the worry I have had for two years that I might loose my home, or maybe it’s been the depression again.
This is a problem I have recently discovered affects most of us with Mental Illness regardless of our diagnosis.

Chats in the smoking room or the kitchen at the day hospital often focused on the fact that we can often have other illnesses or complaints which both we and the medics can miss by putting the symptoms down to our “labelled” condition. Flue is a good example, early symptoms being a part of everyday life, particularly for depressives.

And then that “spaced out” feeling. Is it the medication? Is it the illness? Alternatively, am I just tired?
It was expected that once in a while someone would turn up at the hospital a couple of hours late saying “Well, I got up on time and sat on the edge of the bed and the next thing I knew it was two hours later”.

I’m a smoker and throughout my life people have given me a jolt by bringing me from my inner place to tell me the cigarette I lit some time before has completely burned away. I might have been trying to sift through the thoughts in my head or I might have found a moments respite from them but now I was sitting with a cigarette shaped ash balancing precariously on the filter tip.

Some days I am woken by my alarm but as I sit on the edge of my bed wondering whether to get washed, or make a cup of tea, or open the curtains, or what to have for breakfast, etc. I float off into some other place that is either incredibly troubled or wonderfully peaceful and I stay there for as long as it takes.

Since the diabetes this is more of a problem because the tiredness that comes when my blood sugar is up is like none I’ve experienced before. I can literally go to sleep anywhere when that happens, so much so that I have an almost permanent imprint of the toilet seat on my backside.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

What a day: Part 2

I have remained overweight since the year of inactivity waiting for my Degenerative Disc Disease to be diagnosed. I exercised as much as I could (walking up and down the classroom for example) within the constraints of my Lecturing post, but, although this halted the increase in my weight, the combination of pain and the limitations placed on some types of activity by medics meant I could no longer exercise strenuously enough to lose the extra weight I had already acquired.

My weight increased again when, during the year following the onset of my current depressive episode, I spent a year as a Day Patient at the local Psychiatric Day Hospital, attending various therapy and educational groups to address my “mood”. There was a well-equipped gym at the hospital but I was unable to make use of the facilities because of my DDD.

I get some activity now by walking with my camera and photographing and watching birds. (Some say I photograph “anything” to which I reply “only things that interest me”, but it is mainly birds). I take this exercise whenever I am able, I find the Birds and the photography help push the pain to the back of my mind for a short period of time, but once again I am unable to exercise strenuously enough to reduce the weight I gained during that period.

Once I had recovered from the depressive episode enough to think about food and eating again I began to address this problem through diet but I was too late. About this time last year I was diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes and now the major part of my diet is selected for me through the things I must not eat.

So now I take handfuls of Pills. Pain killers and muscle relaxants for the back, Anti-depressants, and, for the diabetes, tablets to control my blood sugar and others to correct marginal blood pressure and cholesterol levels which would not be deemed serious enough to require treatment if the diabetes were not there.

Because of all these things I sometimes become dizzy when rising from a sitting position, not a problem if it happens immediately because I just sit back down and wait for the dizziness to pass. On three occasions I have been caught out when the dizziness started after I had walked away from my seat and on each of these occasions I have fallen. I escaped unharmed on the first two occasions but during last occurrence, three weeks ago, my legs buckled under me and I suffered a badly sprained ankle.

I heard a bang as my right foot bent under my weight but as I remained conscious, and could wiggle my toes (a trick I remembered from my football playing days), and, because I am used to feeling a variety of weird sensations and pains in my feet and legs from the damaged nerves in my spinal cord, I decided to wait till the next day to see what happened. I took extra’s of my prescribed pain killers so that I could sleep.

The next day the foot was so swollen I could not put my shoes on. Stuck now because I could not drive and felt I was not entitled to call an ambulance as I was no longer an “emergency, I resolved to get through the weekend and contact my GP on Monday.

The Poggle phoned that night, frustrated that her weekend plans made it impossible for her to come and help (which is why I did not call her) she suggested that if things were still bad the next day that I should get a taxi to the Casualty Department. This good solution had not occurred to me.

My mind was made up at 4am the next morning when, despite my “double dose” of nighttime pain relief, I was woken by severe pain from my foot that was by now roughly three times the size of its companion. Remembering from my Social Work days that casualty was probably full of drunks at that time on a Sunday morning I waited until nine and called the Taxi.

I gained my first experience of the world from a wheelchair because staff were so concerned at what they saw that I was sat in one and pushed from place to place. One of those places was the X-Ray department where we learned there was no break but a very bad sprain. The doc explained the implications of that and suggested I call on my GP during the following week to request follow up Physiotherapy. (I wondered, but did not ask at the time, why he did not strap the ankle, learned from my GP since that the combination of my age and the diabetes could mean strapping would inhibit fluid drainage).

Until yesterday I was unable to drive through fear that if I needed to brake suddenly the pain might cause me to take my foot off the pedal so I phoned my GP last week and explained what had happened, we agreed there was no need for him to come to me, I would get in when I was able.

The Poggle (who is my ex-wife and current best friend of whom you will learn more one day) visited on Sunday. She is an ex SRN and currently has a small reflexology practice. For four years she has given me regular free reflexology treatments (more of this at another time too because they have definitely brought be relief from both the Sciatica and the depression in the past). She was concerned at the colour of my skin above the sprain, she thought this might be Cellulitis and suggested I contact my GP to have it checked. I called in following my analysis yesterday to book an appointment but his slots were all booked for over a week so I phoned him when I got home to explain the situation and ask if I should go to Casualty again. He found a space when he could see me today.

He confirmed the Poggle’s view and prescribed an anti-biotic, telling me this is yet another thing he might leave to do its own thing and maybe go away, but could not afford to do so because of the Diabetes, so from today I am being treated for three different conditions that might not require intervention if the Diabetes were not there. Because I know he is very resistant to prescribing anti-biotics I looked “Cellulitis” up on the Net when I got home, seems it is something else that can be quite serious.
That’s a drag eh.