Sunday, 24 June 2018

"Here's a plan of action, if I was in charge of the budget, development and operations management:"

Email sent to Fife Health & Social Care Partnership and others on Friday past, 22 June 2018:

"Good morning Julie (and colleagues, plus elected members)

I was at the Royal Highland Show yesterday, it was a tonic to be back among farming folk, salt of the earth, where we used to go as a family when the boys were young, my husband working on the Milk Marketing Board stall, 1980's, when we lived at Rigside, Lanark.  I visited the sheep stalls, spoke to farmers about the Bluefaced Leicester crosses, many of which were new to me since the 1970's when I worked with a small flock on the Muirhead family farm.  I came back from the show tired but refreshed, remembering how therapeutic it was to work on the land, to rear animals, milk the cows, drive the tractor.  I hope to do some of that again in the future, if possible, especially working with sheep, maybe spinning wool, knitting garments from my own flock.

This morning I was thinking again of Safe haven crisis Houses in Fife for people experiencing extreme emotional distress, psychoses, altered mind states, lack of sleep.  Places of respite and refuge where Fife folk could drop by for a few hours to regain their equilibrium, to have a chat, be listened to, refreshments, maybe stay for a few nights to regulate sleep, do outdoor or indoor creative activities.  Staffed by a team who have a variety of life experience and qualifications but most of all are good listeners, compassionate, patient, friendly, wise and with a sense of humour.  Some volunteers with special skills to complement the work eg craftspeople, gardeners, bakers, musicians, artists etc.

Here's a plan of action, if I was in charge of the budget, development and operations management:
  • firstly fundraise, apply for monies, get the public interested and involved by promoting the plan, set up twitter, website, blog, to gather interest, to be transparent about what's happening, to get others onboard with the vision
  • [plan to] buy 3 properties, one in each Fife area, East, West, Central; semi-rural, on edge of village or town, bus route nearby; with some land to house outbuildings for activities, veg plot, grass to play games on, maybe a field to keep sheep in, near water would be even better, a river or the sea; they need not all be the same size of house, one might have more bedrooms for overnights, another a safe haven for drop-ins out of hours and weekends, another a mixture; this could be a phased plan, getting one house up and running first
  • set up a stakeholder group for reference, people whose knowledge and experience would benefit process, but not to have decision-making abilities; when Drayton Park Women's Crisis House was set up in 1995, Nurse Shirley McNicholas did this within a year, so she told me when I visited in 2016, she's still in charge there, a 12 ensuite-roomed house, Camden & Islington NHS Foundation Trust, some children can stay, they have a cook, aim is to help women avoid psychiatric inpatient treatment
  • recruit mentors to help advise, in different skills areas, people who have set up similar eg Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Centre which is a safe haven, was set up in 1999 by group of service users; there is also the Edinburgh Crisis Centre however it's not on a par with these other two crisis services, in my opinion, having visited them all
The key thing would be to move quickly on this development, not to be held back by organisations or groups who have other agendas.  It makes economic sense to set up alternatives to psychiatric treatment for people who are in crisis.  It costs around £3K/week/patient in Stratheden Hospital and in my experience the treatment is often iatrogenic, leads to revolving door patients with mental illness, never mind the risks of dormitory accommodation in a mixed gender ward when a person doesn't have full capacity. 

I'm now a mental health human rights campaigner because of personal experience but I also have community development worker experience since 1980, having set up many grassroots projects, empowering myself and others to benefit our communities of interest.  They are not exclusive, these parts of my life experience, and I can do both, be creative and a catalyst.

This year I've been doing more in the gardens of my council house at Springfield, see attached photos taken earlier this morning, of my wee greenhouse, growbags of veg, Lavenders, Honeysucks, pot plants on various surfaces which we can see from front and back doors.  I've been creating and maintaining a safe house for my son and I after the negative experiences of 2012.  Inside our home is also therapeutic and creative.  Some house plants, photos of grandchildren, various craftworks which I've created over the years, cross-stitch from 1990's/early 2000's before wearing glasses.  These days I'm into knitting again:

Wouldn't it be good if Fife was a leader in setting up Safe haven crisis Houses in Scotland?  Setting an example for others to follow. 

Thank you for listening. 

[Will attach the rest of the garden photos plus one or two Bluefaced Leicester Coloureds from yesterday in a follow-up Email, due to file size.]

Regards, Chrys"

Royal Highland Show 21Jun18: West Lothian Schools Pipe Band & Clydesdale horses:

Chrys Muirhead 
Safe Houses for Psychosis
writer, researcher, activist; cyclist, photographer, gardener, swimmer

BA Admin Management (best student); Postgrad Dip Community Education; Postgrad Cert TQFE (care subjects, 2008 Stirling University)​


Selection of photos from those sent:

crib of Strawberries & Dahlia
front door view of Lavenders, Honeysuckle, Hypericum etc
back garden view of tatties, other veg, Viburnum, Lavender, pot plants etc
back door view of wee greenhouse, crib, pot plants: Rhododendrums, Fuschias et al
at Royal Highland Show: Bluefaced Leicester Coloureds & Suffolk Mule (black face)

Monday, 11 June 2018

"Wild places with order, patterns, routines not rigid. Flexible. Structured with room to breathe."

Tweets from yesterday in garden:

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Merciful Love Can Help Relieve the Emotional Suffering of Extreme States: #MichaelCornwall

Merciful Love Can Help Relieve the Emotional Suffering of Extreme States: Michael Cornwall, Journal of Humanistic Psychology, May 2018


The subjective experience inherent in the act of offering merciful love by caregivers to those in extreme states is explored. Also, the subjective experience of receiving merciful love from caregivers by people in extreme states is explored. The author draws on both the personal experience of being in extreme states, and on the experience as a dissident Laingian–Jungian oriented therapist and researcher, specializing in serving people in extreme states for 40 years.

Keywords compassion, Esalen, extreme states, Jung, Laing, love, madness, merciful, psychosis, trauma, Diabasis, IWard

I wanted to write about love in this article because I have seen how self-love and the love given to us from others can often bring freedom from the emotional suffering experienced during extreme states. As someone with the harrowing lived experience of extreme states that happened more than 50 years ago, I have focused on what that extraordinary year of suffering was about, for my whole lifetime since then (Cornwall, 2015).

From the beginning, I have been keenly aware that the loving care I received from my aged grandmother as I weathered that awful storm, counted for my ability to survive it. What did she do that helped me so? What have I similarly tried to provide for over 40 years to people in extreme states and in other forms of emotional pain that grew out of my grandma’s loving response to me?

I believe that what she did was very simple really. She expressed her gentle love for me without viewing me as being “mentally ill.” She expressed her love through kind words, warm smiles, tender looks of concern, through long vigilant silences sitting by my side, and when in my most awful hours of torment, by gently resting her hand on my head as I sat on the floor at her feet. I asked her to put her hand on my head many times that year as she had done when I was a young boy during the times I had been very sick and frightened.

So again, as I entered young adulthood, I desperately turned to her like a frightened child seeking loving comfort. Sometimes a half hour or more would pass with her hand resting there on my head as I trembled and softly cried out in fear. How grateful I was to feel that caring touch as I sought for any way to ease the intense fear present in the extreme states that gripped me. Her warm, gentle touch would help break the cold and relentless grip of fear, over and over again. Only once did she say, as she gently rested her hand on my head, “There, there Michael, you’ll feel better soon. You must have the flu dear.”

She had cared for me when I had the flu when I was a little boy. So my strange delirium at age 19, of talking back to the TV that I believed was threateningly and directly talking just to me, or my crying out and trembling in fear all night long, must have caused her to think that I had the flu again. But as the months wore on and my emotional pain and disorientation grew in intensity, it emerged that each day, hour, and passing minute were timelessly suspended there between us. Her very short memory caused her to experience every few minutes wholly anew—and my sense of the passing of time became deeply altered too. For me, time often slowed down to an uncanny standstill.

The strange experience of time itself during my extreme states could be measured in agonizing periods of being attacked by tortuous disembodied voices while terrifying, inescapable images filled my mind’s eye. That inner torture somehow stretched time out and slowed it down until a few seconds seemed like minutes and a few minutes could seem like an hour. In that almost timeless and sleepless void of hearing those disembodied voices, I also physically endured the mammalian bodily state of an animal being subjected to supercharged terror—of being suspended over an abyss of perceived unending madness, where powerfully tangible, terrifying tactile energies coursed and crackled all over and through my body unbidden as I lay there in bed frozen as if paralyzed, unable to move.

During this time in my life, my grandmother was almost 90 years old. She had raised me as a vulnerable boy who had been abandoned by his parents. I trusted her touch and unspoken love for me during my extreme states, as much as I had treasured her words of love for me my whole life. She had cared for me after I had suffered agonizing third-degree burns to my hand as an 18-month-old toddler that required weeks in the hospital and extensive skin grafts.

I guess what she gave to me during my extreme states could be called unconditional love, but the acts of giving and receiving the essence of such love are very subjective. Unconditional love seems to be both more tangible and more elusive than the words that strain to define it. I believe it is a humble form of love—actually very innocent in its own way. It is so often quiet and not given to unnecessary verbal expression. In fact, it is often the healing silences that are full of such love between us that may touch and soothe us in the very core of our beings. So often, a gentle touch or a look of heartfelt caring can communicate our love without a word being said.

My grandmother’s love also opened me to receiving a merciful, soul-level healing that I know would not have happened but for her human-hearted gift. It opened me to the possibility of the existence of an unseen, very benevolent spiritual reality. I try and find that kind of merciful love that she gave me inside myself for the people I am with who are in intense emotional pain, and also anytime when I am in such pain myself. I believe we have all desperately needed such soothing love at those most painful and frightening times during our lives—from others and from ourselves. I hope you readers have felt and will feel it in your hours of need.

But perhaps such love seems too intimately personal, too unprofessional, or even too unsophisticated to be humbly offered as a soothing balm by those of us trained in the elevated disciplines of science and medicine, psychiatry, and psychology. Maybe that is partly because heart-felt love is a human emotion that we feel moving inside ourselves and we must therefore revealingly communicate it outward, when we do offer it to another.

I do not think it is easily communicated by the fine words of our professional intellect, by our rational astuteness—those well-meaning egoic cognitive efforts that may actually block us from accessing such humble, emotion-filled love for ourselves and for others. But humble love is very powerful in its own seemingly simple way. It possesses a tangible essence that passes between two people that is unmistakable when it occurs. It is like an ineffable transaction happens. It gratefully can be given in that way to ourselves too. It seems to require a letting go of those merciful gifts of love in order to have them flow out freely, as if emerging from a hidden aquifer within. It is an act of paradoxically surrendering, not gripping the subjective, compassionate experience we are feeling for ourselves or another to increase it or to continue it taking place. Those moments of love seem to have a life and duration of their own. We cannot conjure them up with the purpose of controlling their impact or their duration.

Instead, it is like when we physically hand a gift to another. There is a moment in time when our hand releases the gift—and it passes over a luminal threshold into the hand and possession of the other. Our gift giving is a form of ritual sharing where the giver surrenders possession and the receiver opens himself or herself to acceptance. In many ways, it is a very basic and simple but also intimate human sacrament. There is the feeling that grows of an enhanced connection and presence between the giver and the receiver (Cornwall, 2016a).

That communion of merciful giving seems to carry the aura of innocent love and often has a childlike quality that belies its power. It is not full of strong adult intention as we usually know it. It is so mysterious that words like grace and numinous benevolence are sometimes used to define it. Maybe so, but it is possibly much more humanly elemental than that. Very simple elemental mysteries often contain profound power.

So with all this in mind, where did my grandmother go to inside herself when she simply rested her loving hand on the head of her terrified grandson? Where have you gone to inside yourself when the tenderest love moved in you for your suffering child, your partner, your parent, your friend, even for yourself? I will venture it is an indispensable expression of our human birthright to feel such autonomous love come alive within us, and I believe it is also our greatest human need to receive it when we are suffering. This quote by Gandhi speaks to the mysterious power of love—“Love is the strongest force the world possesses and yet it is the humblest imaginable” (Gandhi, 1925).

I do not believe such love can easily well up inside us while we are distracted by ponderous, analytical mentation. Doesn’t the “clinical gaze” that sometimes may emerge in the eyes of “mental health” caregivers reflect the detached or even defended inner emotional state of the caregiver? That impersonal clinical gaze strives to keenly identify and measure the severity of the “symptoms” of mental illness in order to ascertain definable patterns of “psychopathology.” The clinical gaze also searches for the degree of deviance from codified societal norms. But the inner clinical stance of the caregiver that fosters the caregiver’s own emotionally detached, impersonal objectifying gaze, tragically, can reinforce the inner self-judgments and the inner devaluing and self-shaming of the suffering person the caregiver would hope to help. One’s very self-identity is called into question as the inevitable psychiatric diagnosis process unfolds. We are then redefined as “disordered” beings who are fundamentally failing to pass as equals with those more “healthy” and successful persons than ourselves. A psychiatric diagnosis almost always brings a diminution of self-worth to those so often already in the grip of harsh self-judgments about their worth and inherent value (Cornwall, 2016b).

Hostile inner judgmental attacks so often may fuel the incredible emotional pain of extreme states. That extreme emotional pain tends to keep birthing the relentless strings of self-attacking words, disembodied voices, and nightmarish imagery that in turn increases the emotional pain into a reactive, spiraling critical mass that feeds on and fuels itself indefinitely. Under these circumstances doesn’t the word mercy that I am using seem like what the sufferer might even beg for, if they still had the power to beg for it?

I know that without any thought about the moral rightness of it, my grandmother freely gave me her merciful love, while she also valued the universally revered golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Her humble, unconditional love for me very crucially primed the pump for me to give such love to myself. I really needed to love myself, more than anything else, in order to escape the shaming and hateful voices inside me that judgmentally said I deserved to suffer. They also cruelly told me that I deserved to die.

Most people I have known who are suffering such intense emotional pain need the healing balm of unconditional love to be provided from others first, before they can begin to mercifully give it to themselves. We all deserve such love, but we often do not believe we really do deserve it until someone gives it to us freely (Cornwall, 2012).

A meditation on claiming our right to self-love that could be seen as a companion piece to the golden rule may be a suggestion that says, “Do unto yourself as you would have yourself do unto others.” How cruel we sometimes are to ourselves—heartlessly cold or hatefully harsh to ourselves in ways we would try to keep ourselves from being toward others. Harsh self-judgments can rain down from inside ourselves without a seeming way to escape them. Self-judgments that condemn and shame us provide the soil for such bitter fruit to grow and multiply.

In my experience, at a certain point of such emotional suffering, only merciful love can break through the prison cell wall where we are trapped. When we are suffering like a malnourished, starving animal, feeling cornered and collapsed inside, too weak to resist the torments, the jabs of pointed sticks of self-hatred, then we are truly at the mercy of the world and everyone around us. Then if merciful love comes to us from another, or emerges inside us for ourselves, it brings the renewing energy of life itself back into our bodies, psyches, and hearts. It brings life-saving hope that our suffering is not forever.

Every person I have known in such suffering states of inner hell had lost a handhold on his or her very existence and was sliding into oblivion. Let us try reaching out our upturned hand to them that is full of caring and merciful solace. Whatever we have learned that gets in the way of that taking place can be shelved or even forgotten for a while as we try to connect from a place of the most basic compassion. You might imagine feeling your loving energy reach out like a lifeline, holding the suffering person who is safely there with you from slipping into total collapse. The gentlest expression of loving concern that you may imagine being able to offer him or her will no doubt contain some of the soothing balm that my grandmother brought to me.

Many years ago, when I sat a few feet across from a person who was in incredible fear and in the inner torment of hearing relentless persecutory voices, I found myself unbidden, imagining my hand slowly reaching out and gently resting on the person’s head with compassion. As I imagined myself doing that in my mind’s eye, the person slowly looked up and met my gaze. The invisible essence of merciful heartfelt caring passed from me to the person in that moment, and I remembered my aged grandmother and her merciful gifts of love in my hours of need (Cornwall, 2002).

Finally, a little poem came to me unbidden in the night many years ago as a reminder of her selfless love and as a daily touchstone that I still need to help me find my way:

“There’s a love that doesn’t wait to be claimed, received.
There’s a love that doesn’t wait and long to be returned.
There’s a humble love that just is, is.
A gentle flame that just burns, burns.”

I sometimes gratefully still dream about my grandmother, and in those dreams, I again see her kind face, her wise and childlike loving eyes, and her gentle, loving smile.

Laura Tompkins was her name."

Monday, 7 May 2018

new blog pages: Music Therapy, Arts & Crafts, Green Spaces 😊

Created new pages on blog:

Music Therapy

Music therapy is the use of sounds and music within an evolving relationship between client and therapist to support and encourage physical, mental, social and emotional well-being."
(Leslie Bunt, Music Therapy - An Art Beyond Words, p.8)
[thanks to my son Ed Muirhead for this quote!]

Arts & Crafts

A page about creative pursuits which help a person journey through altered mind states, as happened with me in 2015 when experiencing my 4th reactive psychosis, running out of steam after years of campaigning for justice, following the abuse of my son by Nurses in the locked seclusion room of Stratheden IPCU, Fife.

Green Spaces

A page about outdoor activities for mental health and wellbeing, including horticulture, gardening, exercise, sports, fitness, games, nature study, on the water, wildlife, travel and cycling which I took up properly in early 2016 after having to dispense with owning a car, couldn't afford it anymore.


Some examples of my creative outputs and activities since experiencing another psychosis in 2015:

pencil case for granddaughter 28Dec17
cycling to Hospital Mill crossing Manse Rd Springfield 1Feb16
Lavender, wild poppies, roses 8Oct15
main blog screenshot 3Jan18
Psychosis Journal Opinion Piece Oct17


Saturday, 5 May 2018

PhD Clinical Psychology references: Dr Peter Gordon; Prof Andy Gumley

From Dr Peter Gordon on 2 November 2016:

From Prof Andy Gumley on 5 December 2016 (had to chase it up by phoning the Professor):

my PhD Clinical Psychology proposal; accepted 25Dec16 then withdrawn 9May17

PhD Proposal [27 October 2016] 

Investigating alternative crisis house and safe haven models from the perspective of lived experience: evidencing how the journey through psychoses and severe emotional states may be made safer and more secure by avoiding hospital treatment 

Autoethnographic Introduction 

In 1970 at the age of 17 I first entered the locked ward of a psychiatric hospital to visit my mother who was a patient and came away from the experience crying myself.  Then in 1978 I too became a psychiatric inpatient, voluntary, 3 months after a very painful, induced labour and birth of my second son, having been visited by 2 psychiatrists at home in Lanarkshire who said I had hormone imbalance and “puerperal psychosis”.  In the hospital I was offered Chlorpromazine/Largactyl, refused it, then was held down and injected in the hip with the drug until I would take it in liquid form, then in pill form.  I had been breastfeeding my son so was bound to stop the milk, which I resented.  It was painful and I missed my baby and 2 year old son, but wouldn’t have wanted them to visit the psychiatric hospital and witness my state. 

Within a few days of inpatient care I was put under pressure by nurses to accept ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) but I resisted signing the form.  ECT was a regular treatment for psychosis in 1978 and patients used to line up for it, without question it seemed.  At visiting time in the evening, dressed in pyjamas because our clothes were locked away (we had to eat in mixed gender dining room), I told my husband about my fear of being forced to take ECT and he took me out of the hospital without informing anyone.  It was a common occurrence people escaping from Hartwoodhill in their pyjamas.  Coming off the high dose of antipsychotic cold turkey meant I got serious side effects, muscle spasms, and my brother-in-law with his wife in their car took me back into hospital to be put on medication again. 

I had avoided ECT but the nurses weren’t happy about this and would say to me that if I’d had the shock treatment I would have recovered more quickly from the psychosis.  I didn’t believe them because my mother had been subject to many courses of ECT against her will and because of this resisted going into the mental hospital, as we called it back then in the 1960’s.  I remember in 1966, after the birth of my youngest sister, that my mother had a nervous breakdown.  My father was very distressed and asked me what we should do, because my mother didn’t want to go into hospital.  I was 14 and didn’t know why she was resistant, she didn’t give any details.  I said to my father that she would have to go into hospital, and so she did although I didn’t see her go.  In 1970 I also hadn’t seen her going into hospital because my grandparents would have taken care of it.  But my granny died in the July, my two younger sisters were fostered, and this is when I first went into a psychiatric hospital and locked ward of female patients, as a visitor.  In the same ward was a mother who had killed her child and this was very distressing for my mother who kept going on about it and crying.  I cried too. 

In 1978 after about 3 weeks a patient I was discharged from the psychiatric hospital, sedated, and over the next year the Chlorpromazine dose was reduced from 400mgs to 100mgs a day. Within the year I was well enough to make the decision to stop the medication, informing the psychiatrist that I had done so.  He wasn’t pleased but it didn’t matter because I was in good mental health.  I made a full recovery and got back on with my life.  We lived on the in-laws farm and had a small flock of Blue-faced Leicester cross ewes which I lambed and sold at Lanark Market as hogs with lambs at foot.  In 1980 I was on the Krypton Factor, Granada TV, as a “Shepherdess” after my sister-in-law got the application forms, and I did the training with her support.  We were told that 10K people applied, 500 of us got interviews in our localities, mine was in STV Cowcaddens, Glasgow, and 32 won through to 8 heats on TV, my cousin who lived in Chester was in another heat.  I was against 3 men and came last, both in the Assault Course and in the show, although I was 2nd for the IQ test, didn’t do well at the general knowledge, subjects I knew nothing about eg snooker.  A moment of fame, front page in local paper, national paper Daily Record took a photo of me with a lamb but it wasn’t published.

In 1984 we decided to have another baby and, as with my 2nd son, I had an induced, traumatic labour, end of November, and gave birth to our 3rd son, again at around 3pm before end of day shift, experiencing altered mind states in the maternity hospital soon after birth.  I knew that it was a psychosis however I hoped to get home and recover in familiar surroundings, supported by family, without medical professionals getting wind of it.  However our GP, a family friend, came to visit me at home, the day after I was discharged, noticed I wasn’t “myself”, called an ambulance which arrived at night.  I voluntarily went out into the vehicle, in my pyjamas, in full view of the neighbourhood, accompanied by two nurses in uniform, knowing that I was going to the same psychiatric ward, leaving my baby and two sons at home with the GP and his wife.  My husband followed the ambulance.  The main fear I had was being coerced to take ECT but by this time at the end of 1984 it wasn’t a regular treatment for psychosis, I didn’t see patients lining up for it. 

On entering the psychiatric ward, or soon after, I was given an internal examination against my will.  This must have been a “procedure” but I resisted the invasion by a black doctor with an afro who put a rubber glove on and came towards me.  My husband was a witness and he apologised to the doctor for my resistance, I remember this, wasn’t drugged at the time.  The reason I resisted was because the birth of my 3rd son had been normal, no complications, a few stitches after a small cut because all my babies had big heads, were measured after birth.  The placenta came out fine.  So I saw no reason for a doctor in a psychiatric ward to be doing an internal.  He wouldn’t have been a gynae specialist, likely a junior doctor, so what was the point of it?  He might have caused damage.  My resistance was futile.  I had to submit. 

After this I was possibly offered Chlorpromazine or they may just have cut to the chase, held me down, injected me with the drug, same procedure, liquid then pills.  An inpatient for about 3 weeks then home for Christmas and discharged soon after.   My husband decided to get a vasectomy and I signed the form when on 400mgs/day of Largactyl.  He didn’t want me to have to go through same again in the psychiatric hospital.  I would have risked it.  Within a year I’d got off the antipsychotic, this time supported by a community psychiatrist who visited me at home in Lanarkshire.  I made a full recovery and by 1986 was very involved in community activities locally and further afield.

In 2002 aged 50 and menopausal I experienced another psychosis, transitioning from child-bearing years, and my sons took me into our local psychiatric hospital which I entered voluntarily with some trepidation, because in 1995/6 I’d raised complaints about my oldest son’s treatment there when he was an inpatient, having experienced a psychosis after leaving home for university in the big city.  He was given ECT involuntarily, had a critical incident, was rushed to Ninewells Hospital, we were called for, fortunately he eventually made a full recovery, with my support. 

Within a short space of time, 2002, I was detained under the Mental Health Act for 72 hours and told that I had to take Risperidone or I wouldn’t get discharged.  They put me in a female dorm with 6 beds, down a corridor that had single rooms on the other side, male patients in some of them.  I swallowed the antipsychotic pills under duress, knowing that if I hadn’t done so then I’d likely be forcibly injected with a stronger dose of medication.  Which I didn’t want, bearing in mind the risks of the mixed gender ward, and the fact that antipsychotics take away agency, making a person more vulnerable to predatory patients.  I knew this from my psychiatric inpatient experiences of 1978 and 1984, having witnessed inappropriate sexual behaviour between patients who were mentally unwell, while under the “protection” of staff who prescribed and, if “necessary”, forcibly medicated patients.

The risks to vulnerable female psychiatric patients in mixed gender wards due to loss of agency, whether through mental distress or enforced drugging, is one of the main drivers for my course of PhD research study. 


This action research PhD will employ a range of methods to investigate crisis houses and safe havens which exist in the UK and abroad, seeking good practice models and positive recovery outcomes, testimonies from people who have used alternative (to hospital) crisis services, hearing from staff working in these resources.  To build up a picture, a map of what services exist, how they have been developed, any challenges along the way, the budgeting structure, the involvement of people with lived experience and their Carers or family members, collaborations and partnerships, and any other details which will help to evidence the benefits of safe haven crisis houses.

A community development approach will underpin the research work 

“It seeks the empowerment of local communities …”

In addition, empowering the individual to act and to be in community with others.

“Good community development is action that helps people to recognise and develop their ability and potential and organise themselves to respond to problems and needs which they share”

Muirton Fairfield Action Research Project: 

Literature Review 

Here are the books so far identified as core texts for the PhD research journey:

A Gumley, M Schwannauer . Staying Well After Psychosis: A Cognitive Interpersonal Approach to Recovery and Relapse Prevention. Wiley-Blackwell. 2006

M MacCallum Sullivan, H Goldenberg. Cradling the Chrysalis: Teaching and Learning Psychotherapy. Revised Edition. Karnac Books. 2015.

F Davoine, JM Gaudillière. History Beyond Trauma. Revised Edition. Other Press. 2004

M Birchwood, D Fowler, C Jackson. Early Intervention in Psychosis: A Guide to Concepts, Evidence and Interventions. Wiley. 2000

Exploring the teaching in these books will help to frame psychosis as a transitional experience, a journey from one place to another, a way of expressing pain externally as a result of life trauma.  The provision of safe havens and crisis houses should help the person come through the psychosis and/or severe emotional state a more stronger, resilient human being, confident in their own abilities.  The research interviews and conversations, semi-structured with open-ended questions, will have the aim of eliciting information and understanding the respondent’s point of view and personal experience.  Hearing from the person what it was like to be in crisis and have access to safe haven or residential house support rather than psychiatric inpatient treatment.  Listening to staff working with people in crisis, alternative settings, how this may have enhanced their working conditions, in particular the aspect of non-coercive treatment and collaborative practices.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is a useful resource for articles on the research topic: 

Mind, the mental health charity, has links on its website to information about crisis houses and safe havens, the differences, details about services in the UK 

“Crisis house, sanctuary or safe haven? 

These services can be very similar. The main difference is that services described as crisis houses usually offer overnight accommodation with a bed for you sleep in, whereas services described as sanctuaries or safe havens usually don't. Sanctuaries and safe havens might be open overnight as a supportive place for you to go for several hours during a crisis, but they don't usually provide somewhere for you to sleep or live in.” on Mind website

The plan will be to investigate a few Safe haven crisis Houses in detail, and these will include Drayton Park Women’s Crisis House, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust: 

We provide12 women in mental health crisis a residential stay in a domestic setting, as an alternative to acute admission. We also offer non- residential services for women who have stayed previously, such as on-going support groups, peer support space and a range of workshops for women throughout the year.

And the Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service (LSLCS): 

“Philosophy of LSLCS 

Each individual has their own experience of crisis. The causes and impact of crisis will be different for each person. We believe that people are expert in knowing their own situations and with the right kind of attention and support can find their own solutions. 

Research Methods 

A range of qualitative research methods will be used in this PhD project and these will include:

One-to-one interviews
Focus groups
Online survey in conjunction with service or project engagement: as a way of people supplying more information if required, anonymously if preferred.
Observing and attending groups linked to safe havens or crisis houses, to gather information, to participate and to practise reflection-in-action (Schon

A learning system… must be one in which dynamic conservatism operates at such a level and in such a way as to permit change of state without intolerable threat to the essential functions the system fulfils for the self. Our systems need to maintain their identity, and their ability to support the self-identity of those who belong to them, but they must at the same time be capable of transforming themselves.” Schon 1973: 57 

The aim will be to hear what people are saying, to capture this in their own words, to refrain from paraphrasing so as to dilute their meaning, to discover what makes a successful safe haven crisis house, firstly from the perspective of the person with lived experience and then from the paid worker’s point of view.

Conclusion and Hoped for Outcomes 

To prove the case that Safe haven crisis Houses make sense, in both humanitarian and economic terms. 

To provide a platform of gathered information and stories as a base for future development of Safe haven crisis Houses in Scotland, as an alternative to psychiatric inpatient treatment.

To generate conversations about Psychosis as a journey, a transition which can enhance a person’s life experience, bringing more insight and greater self-awareness.

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