This is a post about the mental health debate held at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 6th January 2015. Alexander McCall Smith wrote to me recently recommending this book (appreciating that I had graduated in Landscape Architecture): My recent posts have, as a result, been based on patterns. This is the pattern of my Tuesday in Edinburgh. It is however not just a recent pattern but an old one too: Waverley: I arrived in the toon of my birth 200 years since Walter Scott wrote his novel. At the station, this was one of several Walter Scott quotes that I noticed: But before the parliamentary debate, I had arranged to meet a dear friend: My friend “dares to know” like no other I know. We met for a bowl of soup at the storytelling centre on the Royal Mile. Here I was lucky to meet my friend’s son. Who I found to be a very fine young man. The following quote was displayed at the storytelling centre: The soup was good. The company and shared stories even better. Our conversation over soup reminded me of Aesculapius. Edinburgh doctors, of enlightenment days, formed the “Aesculapian club”.
I need no “club”: I need only soup and good company. On the way to the parliament we passed by the Poetry library. This statue of Robert Fergusson lies opposite to the poetry vennel. This was Fergusson’s 18th century view of medical language,’authority’ and learning. Just before entering Scotland’s parliament one is met by the poetry wall. The Scottish parliament is a most wonderful building. Rich in pattern and in materials.
It has no simple pattern.The Presiding Officer started proceedings [given her confusion, thank goodness there was no “routine” cognitive screening as mandated by Healthcare Improvement Scotland!] The Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, Jamie Hepburn, MSP, led off the debate on mental health: The debate began. 18 MSPs in a mostly empty parliamentary chamber. My mind turned to a visit to the parliament five years before with my daughter’s primary school class. That was a day of lots of lively minds.Jamie Hepburn’s address was followed by much parliamentary comment about stigma. Stigma is a subject that I have written about and made films. My understanding is that stigma is experienced by the person. It is not a simply entity. I read all the time. My reading reminds me of how little I know. I share C. P. Snow’s concern. As a graduate in both Arts and Sciences I have experienced very different cultures. I am not sure how healthy such separation is.As a critical mind I sometimes feel alone. However I do feel reassured that I seem to be on the same page as Kenneth Calman and Sir Harry Burns. I agree with Kenneth Calman. Though I would insist that experience also matters. We are perhaps taught from an early age to appreciate arts and sciences as entirely separate. History is also taught in separation. The “pattern” that I am attempting to present has strayed from the parliamentary debate. Dr Richard Simpson, in his reply to the Cabinet Minister, outlined his concern about the “divide” between body and mind. The above was written by John Logie Baird in his diary at the time that he demonstrated television. I welcomed Dr Simpson’s speech: Dr Simpson is aware of my view that I feel that informed consent to cognitive assessment is important [the above written by an elderly patient recently] . Dr Simpson said to parliament: My concern here is that our elders will find that they have no choice in such assessments. I am interested in ethics. For me this means listening to experience. The above was part of the contribution by John Mason, MSP, to the mental health debate. A contribution that I welcomed. Whilst I do worry about “target” dominated healthcare, the following findings did concern me: Over regulation is a worry for me. We may find a day when professionalism is out-weighted by regulation. Below is an imbalance that I find concerning. Is this the real basis of loss of parity?My closing thought on the mental health debate: I am of the view that Scotland, in its approach to mental wellbeing, needs to embrace a more pluralistic outlook: an outlook that includes those with lived experience, critical minds and the medical humanities.END [with a young doctor] and “patients who don’t quite fit the patterns”