The Quest For The Creative: or, I’m Still Here

This insightful, articulate account of what it’s like to have your creative fluency peeled away by medication should be compulsory reading for prescribers. Not as a comment on how unfeeling they are or holier-than-thou about knowing best – although some undoubtedly are – but as an indication of the costs, the intellectual losses, that often accompany treatment with brain-affecting chemicals. It is always a balance and there must always be choice that doesn’t alienate either party from the other.

Shoshana Kessock

Let’s talk about depression. Shall we call these depression updates?

In the grand scheme of the universe, being someone who is bi-polar comes with a lot of funny side effects. If you’re unmedicated, there’s a lot of bouncing around when manic and symptoms that come with it, and the depressive slide that comes with the other end of the spectrum. When you are medicated, however, there are side effects. And the trade off one has becomes a part of your life.

We are approaching eighteen months of me being on medication for my bi-polar disorder. For the most part, things were extremely wonderful on the medication. I had a hump to get over initially that was difficult – going from the frenetic energy, the highs and lows, that you have to manage without medication was strange. But then I ran into the biggest issue: the dampening of the creative drive.


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Thorpe Park: the tricky wiki bit they removed

I should have taken a screenshot but I intended to post this clip so I copied it for pasting. The last sentence of the first paragraph along with a summarising link, has been removed [2 below which now points elsewhere]. See Halloween: What’s wrong with evoking the “scary mental patient” stereotype? for an update.

Thorpe Park is a theme park in ChertseySurrey, England, UK. After demolition of the Thorpe Park Estate in the 1930s, the site became a gravel pit. Thorpe Park was built in 1979 on the gravel pit which was partially flooded, creating a water-based theme for the park. The park’s first large roller coasterColossus, was added in 2002. Merlin Entertainments own and operate the park. In 2012 the park received 1.8m visitors, down from 2.0m visitors in 2011.[1] In 2013 Thorpe Park attracted a wave of negative criticism from mental health campaigners for its ‘Asylum’ attraction, which appears to depict people with mental illness as frightening and out of control, reinforcing negative stereotypes around mental health.[2]

Halloween: What’s wrong with evoking the “scarey mental patient” stereotype?

This is an articulate and well-argued presentation of the current (19/10/13) situation regarding Thorpe Park’s ‘Asylum’ experience which is testing the civility of many of us in responding to comments largely, we hope, based in ignorance. Sadly, there are other businesses prepared to offer the same sort of hideous material; the rape fantasy experience – exactly, me too – you’ll see in the post. There’s also Farmageddon which offers both ‘insanity’ and ‘psychosis’ experiences, and at Dinosaur Park, there is an ‘Insanitorium’. Twitter is using #AsylumNO to make its point.



Halloween (2) SEP 2013

Update small


Update: Scroll down for new additions (flagged with the handy yellow update picture), including links to numerous other people’s posts, a defence by a theme park enthusiast & an overview by a theme park industry website


On Thursday, it came to the attention of the lovely twitter people that one of Britain’s major theme parks, Thorpe Park, had a “scary mental patient” experience as part of its Halloween offering. It was called Asylum. Just as when, a few weeks ago, Asda, Tesco and Amazon marketed their “mental patient fancy dress costumes”, the mental health twittersphere exploded in protest.

Why? Take a look at this video to see the stereotypical “scary mental patient” scare story played out. “Watch your back as you weave your way through The Asylum, a maze of dead ends and hidden corners.” Who are you to watch out for? The Thorpe Park…

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Dear Thorpe Park: re shockingly insensitive “Asylum” event

This is live on twitter now. Please Hashtag AsylumNo to tell Thorpe Park that this is unacceptable.



Dear Guest Services,

I understand that you plan to plan to run a Fright NIght event entitled “The Asylum.” Your website promises “a chaotic environment of noise, light and like action” where guests must “watch [their] back as [they] encounter dead ends, hidden corners and eyes that watch you from the shadows.”

I was deeply shocked when I read this, and expressed concern to your Twitter person, who replied, “The Asylum represents general chaos and scary fun and was never meant to cause offence.”

Do you have any idea what asylums are really like?

I grew up in a village next to a street called Hospital Road, but the older people grumbled because they knew it as “Asylum Road” and they didn’t like change. If you walked along the road for a mile or so you came to a gothic Victorian structure built as an “asylum”. By the time I…

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IASSID MHID conference, Manchester

This three day event, bringing together the best of mental health and learning disability (intellectual disability) research and practice, opens on September 1st. I was expecting to deliver our presentation (Second Life, People with Learning Disabilities, and Capacity to Consent: Conboy-Hill, Taylor, and Hall) outlining the results of our NIHR funded study, but unfortunately, I am not able to attend for family reasons. Nicky Gregory, a courageous colleague, will be fronting it up for me, and hoping that all the technical wizardry does its job. If it does, she will be able to sit back and let it play. The videos will tell the story as well as anything; the narration should do the rest. But, in the event that she has to go a capella, I am certain she will receive a more than sympathetic hearing.

Elsewhere, Celia Heneage will be presenting a workshop with Nicky on group work, and Peter Baker will be talking about his work in positive behaviour support. A pretty good turnout for Sussex Partnership. Break a leg, chaps!



Samantha Backler – died of starvation

Samantha Backler: picture from St Albans Review

from St Albans Review

Samantha was a 29 year old woman with cerebral palsy who was in the sole care of her mother. It is thought that she died as a result of being unable to care for herself or to call for help when her mother died suddenly. This was in 2010. There had been concerns since 1998 after Mrs Wolf, Samantha’s mother, was admitted to hospital with mental health problems, after which support from GPs and social services was increasingly denied. Mrs Wolf, apparently, was afraid that Samantha would be taken away from her. (St Albans Review inquest report)

I can understand this. I work in an integrated health and social services team and I see this kind of situation from both sides. Parents desperate to hold onto care even when they know they are not able to deliver; services ham strung by legislation that, as adult protection, is less robust than its child protection predecessor. One parent once told me that she could not bear to think of her intellectually disabled (adult) child having to survive without her because ‘no one loves her like I do’. Not the first time I worried about a sequence of murder and suicide. Colleagues, on the other hand, have turned themselves upside down and inside out to help families who were not coping, but in the end, were rendered impotent by legislation that seemed to put family wishes ahead of the person with the disability. This has often been complicated by the difficulty in getting a clear view of the service user’s needs as an independent opinion, so often are they trapped within a co-dependent relationship with their care givers.

In 2005, the new Mental Capacity Act came into effect. This meant that everyone should be ‘presumed to have capacity’ unless there is good reason to believe otherwise. It also says that capacity is decision specific’ and not linked to cognitive ability, diagnosis, or condition. In other words, it is no longer possible to assume that someone lacks capacity to decide for themselves because they have a learning disability, you have to ask them or you have to demonstrate that they lack capacity IN THIS INSTANCE  and in this instance ONLY.

What I am wondering with this case is, who asked Samantha what she wanted in terms of her care? Was she seen independently? Did she have an advocate? Was anyone speaking for her so that there was a clear mandate for medical and social services to leave her in her mother’s sole care? And critically, did anyone know how to interview her in such a way as to avoid leading her responses or relying on acquiescence?

Wherever possible, vulnerable adults should be accorded advocacy and expert assessment using a modified cognitive interview (see Clinical Psychology Forum 2006) to ascertain their views without risk of  interviewer contamination of those views. I have seen no evidence that this kind of approach was offered to Samantha Backler, and while there is no guarantee that this would have saved her life, there would at least have been documented evidence of a clear mandate from her to be left alone, in full appreciation of the risks. Either that or she would have been the subject of a ‘best interests’ multi disciplinary meeting which would then have taken the appropriate decision  on her behalf  in accordance with the evidence.

Sometimes it seems we are a little too ready to accede to family wishes and to fail to hear our service user’s voice. Samantha may have been a tragic victim of everyone’s genuine wish to do no harm. We have to learn how to discriminate between what is wanted and what is right, and to stand up strongly for the latter even when the former is screaming correctness and blinding us with loving best intentions.

Get Involved with Research

crowdThis is an experiment. If we post research questions and ideas, would you folks out there, the public, think about them, comment and help us shape our work? Well, let’s give it a go shall we? The first question is about this very thing and it’s on its own page, where it will stay because it’s over-arching.

New questions will be posted here so the comments can follow on in order. And if you have ideas for mental health and learning disability research you think should get some attention, why not tell us? All your comments will be read and, unless they are offensive or off-topic, they’ll stay on the site.