Sunday, December 24, 2006

Sensationalist storylines......

I don't normally watch the BBC drama Casualty but I saw the blurb about it in some magazine that described one of its main characters, Josh being stabbed by someone with a mental health problem. My heart sank as it was another case of lazy scriptwriting. They wanna get rid of a character or increase the number of punters who watch so they create a rather sensational story. So it relies on the stereotype of any old nutter will do.

And this time they have chosen the controversial label of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy developed by the discredited paediatrician Roy Meadow. I think when people hear of MSP they think Beverley Allitt. It is interesting that when the enquiry was set up to investigate Allitt and the events surrounding the killings, they chose not to highlight the fact the ward she worked on was understaffed, there had been cuts in care, lack of communication and bureaucracy instead the Clothier Report argued for better ways of screening out of the health service people who have been labelled with mental health problems.

'excessive absence through sickness, excessive use of counselling or medical facilities, or self-harming behaviour such as attempted suicide, self-laceration or eating disorder are better guides than psychological testing'. It was also stated that 'applicants who show one or more of these patterns should not be accepted for training until they have shown the ability to live an independent life without professional support and have been in stable employment for at least 2 years'.

At the time (1994) of the publication of the Clothier Report the mental health user movement (I had just got involved) was campaigning against and highlighting the recommendations arguing that just because you have a label doesn't mean you are a potential threat. And it did give over zealous Occupation Health departments licence to ask intrusive and personal questions about your mental health and it wasn't just the health service it was extended to other sectors as well. If I, for example, had been interested in training as a nurse in the mid-1990s my application would have been turned down because of my past mental health history.

How do you think that makes someone like me feel? The idea that I could be some potential killer who has to be screened out of nursing. But how exactly do they define mentally fit?

I have written a complaint to the BBC re: Casualty storyline and have sent it to the organisation Mental Health Media who monitors the media around mental health issues.