Peter Bullimore

We had a lovely evening last night with Pete & has partner Linda who were over for dinner at our place. Pete’s doing great work in the area of paranoia primarily in the UK but he travels extensively to train and inspire.

Fascinating discussion with many points of convergence in our thinking and action.  New languaging of recovery in relation to services… let’s talk about ‘recovery-enabling’ rather than ‘recovery-oriented’.  We can be oriented towards something but not making any movement in that direction whereas the language of enabling is more action focussed.  We think it’s time for that!

Looking forward to more collaboration and mutual encouragement!

The future of mental health nursing: are we barking up the wrong tree?

I recommend this piece to you which was written yesterday to nurses who are part of the Critical Mental Health Nurses Network, started up in the UK earlier this year. Go to to check out the site for yourself. (FYI it’s ‘critical’ as in ‘expressing or involving an analysis of the merits and faults of a something’ NOT ‘critical’ in its more common usage of ‘expressing adverse or disapproving comments or judgments’. Important distinction…)

The themes of struggling for professional identity and envisaging a future where we achieve this through solidarity with consumers echo those apparent in last week’s Aust. College of Mental Health Nurses international conference, held in Brisbane.

October 14, 2015

Those of you who attended the conference in Birmingham may have met Mick McKeown, who has been a supporter of the Network since its early days (that’s right, several months ago!). He has a new co-written article (reference and PDF below) published in the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing which we know will be of strong interest to the Network. The article addresses themes surrounding professionalisation and alienation, capitalism and labour, responding to the Shape of Caring Review and resulting concerns about the possible loss of a branch-specific mental health nurse identity. In the article our attention is widened to the identity crises which face mental health nurses more profoundly than the proposed changes to training.

Many critical mental health nurses may be familiar with the multi-authored article published in 2012 written largely by Phillip Thomas and Pat Bracken, Psychiatry Beyond the Current Paradigm (also below). It arguably represents a defining moment in critical psychiatry in the UK. It is to be hoped that this new article, written by two nurses and published in our own mainstream journal, might represent something as significant. The two articles are different in a number of ways and yet share a sense that, governed by the dominant logics of biomedical explanation and the industrial techniques of delivering it, mental health services have become a failing project in need more than just adjustment. McKeown and White describe nurses as facilitators of the current service while at the same time articulating its abuse of us. In fact, the article pulls together many of the themes which authors and commentators on this website have also introduced; Gary Sidley’s grave concerns about practices of coercion; the manner in which we have facilitated the dominance of biomedicine; the increasing awareness that we have been far too ready to view psychiatric drugs as broadly helpful and too trusting of the bodies which exist to create, research, licence and prescribe them; the manner in which uncritical mental health services may be seen as a perfect conduit for a style of neoliberal individualisation which suits the status-quo which may be found here in Mark’s Story. There are Alec Grant’s ‘already damaged bodies’ within the article also. McKeown and White’s critique of professionalisation seems to tessellate remarkably with Karen’s Story. They call for ways of working which reflect democratic values, such as Soteria and Open Dialogue, and beyond such approaches to a more general view that it is in solidarity with service-users and survivor movements where we will find our professional identity.

We welcome this new article and are excited about the possibilities for discussion that will follow. We have also had a preview of a forthcoming article by Alec Grant, written in his capacity as Reader in Narrative mental health at Brighton University, which will address the needs of nurses to disentangle themselves and their education from the corporate production of our work and gain new skills. We will post that here when it is published too.

Please be encouraged to leave comments, questions and feedback which Mick will read.
McKeown, M., White, J., 2015. The future of mental health nursing: are we barking up the wrong tree? J Psychiatric & Mental Health Nursing 22, 724–730.
for the PDF: McKeown et al
Bracken, P., et. al, 2012. Psychiatry beyond the current paradigm. BJP 201, 430–434.
For the PDF Bracken-et-al

The Age publishes call for more focus on psychosocial approaches to mental health problems.

On the 9th October the Age newspaper (Victoria) published the following:

” A healthier response

The government’s focus on mental health, and calls for more services, are encouraging. But more of the same will not improve the situation. International and Australian surveys show that the public, including people who use mental health services, prefer talking therapies and social support to the “label and drug” approach.

Recent studies confirm that people are right to believe that mental health problems are caused primarily by factors such as poverty, stress, violence, child abuse etc. Since distress and despair are not medical illnesses but understandable reactions to these adverse life events, they tend to respond best to human not chemical (or electroshock) responses.

We need to shift funding from relatively ineffective drugs and hospitals towards more humane, evidence-based and safe, social and psychological approaches.

Professor John Read, psychological sciences, Swinburne University of Technology”

This was an edited version of the full letter which included the additional paragraph:

“Services rely too much on anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, which have repeatedly been shown to be no more effective than placebo for most recipients. These drugs, like the anti-ADHD drugs given to more and more Australian kids, have severe adverse effects.”

And which urged the reallocation of funding “to match recent advances in Europe”, stating that “we urgently need to listen to service users and the research” in this shift.

Professor Read is a Board member of the ISPS-Aus/NZ, International Society for Psychological & Social Approaches to Psychosis, Australian & New Zealand Branch.