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 http://criticalmhnursing.org/ 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