ABOUT VOXAll the gen on VOX – its governance, structure and purpose
VOX Scotland is Scotland’s national voice on mental health – we represent our members’ views to Scotland’s politicians and health professionals to make sure Scotland’s laws and mental health services reflect service user needs and interests. VOX is Scotland’s only national mental health advocacy organisation run by service users for service users.
I’m a member of HUG – action for mental health in the highlands, and a director of Support in Mind (where I’m a member of the financial committee and P.A.C committee). I have personal experience of mental health problems, and i am delighted to be a director of VOX as its so important for people to have a voice and to influence policy.
I have been a Service User for many years, and was a founding Director of VOX before I stepped down. For the past 3yrs, I have been the (elected) Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists SUF (Service User Forum), and came to the end of my Term of Office at Congress at the end of June. I am keen for the knowledge & skills I gained there to be of use to VOX, for whom I am passionate about. VOX must be a strong voice, and have influence across the board, and contribute to work such as ‘Mental Health in Scotland – a 10 year vision’. I am also one of the leadership team members for Ayrshire & Arran on the Scottish Patients Safety Programme amongst other things.
I am keen to ensure VOX’s board focus on governance, and to enable the main priorities of the members to be taken forward and prioritised as much as possible.
I’ve been a director and member on a range of groups and projects including Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) the Positive Mental Attitudes (PMA) Drama Group and the Citizens Advice Project. I enjoy being a director of VOX and the opportunity ive had to move on from being a member, I aim to support any sub groups, focus groups and any projects which develop within VOX.
I am a group member director on behalf of Psychiatric Rights Scotland. The aims of Psychiatric Rights Scotland are: to campaign for human rights in psychiatric settings; to ensure that Scottish legislation is compatible with international law; to ensure that patients are treated with dignity and respect ; to ensure patients are not harmed by unnecessary medication; to ensure that carers’ views are enforced; to ensure that complaints are fully investigated etc. Psychiatric Rights Scotland are members of the Cross Party Working Groups for Carers, Human Rights and Mental Health.
I am a former Scottish Chess Champion and gained 641 votes in the 2016 Holyrood election.
I am currently a service user receiving treatment for PTSD as a result of military service. I was previously a police officer, however I have since retired and I am now a 2nd year social work student at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.
I am a case worker for both SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors, Army and Air Forces Association) and the PDT (Police Dependents Trust). I am also a member of BASW (British Association of Social Workers), SASO (Scottish Association for the Study of Offending).
I live in Macduff in Banffshire with my partner Lynn, our Jack Russel Pickle and Pip the grey parrot. I have a hobby making model buildings designed using CAD and cut from card using laser. My current project is a 4mm scale whisky distillery!
Margaret Graham McDonald
I am retired but prior to this I worked in The Civil Service dealing with Security Clearance for The Army. I also worked in the retail sector for Viyella and was a Sales Manager with Miss Selfridge in Glasgow and London. I left school at 15 being keen to earn money and seeing no great value in further education. Later on I went back to Education via The Open University and gained 2 Diplomas: a BSc (Hons) Tech and half of a Post Graduate in Environmental Ethics. I graduated in December 2016 as a Patient Expert in Research&Development in Medicines with The European Patients Academy on Therapeutic Innovation this allows me to use the title: EUPATI Fellow.
I was unable to attend work for long periods of time mainly due to the stress and anxiety of caring for my son and supporting him in order to try and get the best care from a system not connected at heart to the patients needs. I sat on a Research Ethics Committee as a Lay Member for 10 years in order to gain some knowledge of health practices. In 2013 I became a Public Partner with Healthcare Improvement Scotland: again to discover more regarding health&social care & mental health in particular.
I would like to offer my services to The Board as I believe there is much more work to be done in order that Scotland becomes a nation with first class treatment for all mental health conditions with The Scottish Government & Health&Social Care Boards fully engaged and supportive of the aims and objectives of VoX.
Joined VOX: 2007
VOX Director since: 2014
I joined VOX because I’ve always felt that people with a lived experience of mental health issues need a national voice, and I participated in the meetings and events which helped set up VOX. I’m also actively involved with the Highland Users Group (HUG) and I hope my experience of other Boards (such as HUG) helps me in my VOX work.
I’ve become involved in a wide range of mental health activities through VOX. I participated in the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) in Australia in 2009 and learned about concepts such as Peer Support and the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). I also attended the 15thEuropean Symposium on Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour in 2014 and myself and one other VOX member were the only two service users among three hundred delegates – which shows how seriously VOX takes its role of making sure the voice of people with a lived experience is heard loud and clear!
I represent VOX on the Advisory Committee of the Mental Welfare Commission and I’m monitoring the development of the new Mental Health Bill. Along with a VOX colleague, I helped develop the concept of Advance Statements and Named Persons for the Scottish Executive before the 2003 Act was passed.
Outside of VOX, I do a lot of volunteering with HUG, delivering mental health awareness training and representing HUG in NHS Highland meetings. I’m a member of the Highland Mental Health Scottish Patient Safety Programme team and I’ve also recently set up a network in Lochaber for service users, carers, professionals and anyone else interested in mental health – we aim to share information on resources and support services and show how these can be accessed, and we recently received a ‘seeding grant’ to help with our work.
I’ve done quite a few things over the years. I was a Chemistry teacher before moving up to the Highlands and I’ve also worked with older people, been a mental health support worker, worked for HUG and for Advocacy Highland. We moved to the Highlands partly for the sailing opportunities (my husband and I bought a small boat before we had anything other than a touring caravan to live in!) and living in a small rural community has sharpened my interest in health inequalities in remote and rural areas.
I first became interested in advocacy work twenty years ago while volunteering for a project in Lochaber. Graham Morgan (HUG Manager) led two of the training sessions and this was the first time I openly discussed my own mental health difficulties. I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in 2007 and sectioned in 2008 while manic. I developed very helpful relationships with some of the professionals who cared for me and I strongly believe that everyone else should experience the same good standard of care. I’m very fortunate in that my husband doesn’t feel that mental health should be stigmatised and supports me in everything I do.
Joined VOX: 2014
VOX Director since: 2015
I joined VOX because I’m a survivor of the mental health system and have been empowered by meeting other survivors, and by being involved in organisations such as Survivors Poetry, Campaign Against Psychiatric Oppression and Survivors Speak Out. I attended the VOX AGM in 2014 and enjoyed the participation, the fact that it’s survivor-led and is open to direction from survivors. Not being listened to can exacerbate or even create mental health problems, so VOX’s approach is very refreshing!
In addition to my work with VOX and the survivors’ organisations listed above, I’m also involved with MIND, West Dunbartonshire Mental Health Forum and Mental Health Who Cares (also in West Dunbartonshire).
My background is in social work – which I did for nearly twenty years in London and Scotland – and I was involved in my trade union as an elected Convenor and Women’s Officer. I’ve been involved in left wing activism since the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike.
I’m a musician and singer/songwriter and I currently run a social enterprise called Sound Inspirations (www.soundinspirations.co.uk) which uses music as a means of healing. I had a good teacher at primary school who encouraged me to play the guitar. Since learning guitar, music has been a great source of comfort, inspiration, pleasure, passion and healing.
My dad’s job meant that I moved around a lot as a child, and I’ve lived in places such as Cornwall, Doncaster, Singapore, Libya, Thorny Island and London but I was actually born in Derry in Northern Ireland. I’m also a survivor of child sexual abuse and other childhood traumas. I’ve had several psychiatric diagnoses in the past but I’m not keen on the medical model or on diagnoses as they can lead to stigmatisation and are rather like name calling. We should see the person and their experience and not try to short-circuit the issues with short hand diagnoses which can vary from psychiatrist to psychiatrist and place to place. I’m inspired by the work of Ronnie Laing, the anti-psychiatrist who was hugely influential in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies – I’ve written a song about him and, if you ask me nicely, I’ll sing it for you!
Mental health services have improved greatly since they first appeared three hundred years ago but their history is directly linked to the development of capitalism. For example, one of the first ‘mental illnesses’ was called ‘drapetomania’ and the symptoms were “slaves running away from their plantations”!! Not surprisingly, the ‘cure’ was to “put an iron collar round their neck or leg to stop them running away”!! Other equally racist, sexist, homophobic and classist diagnoses followed, and my mission is to end the separation of the ‘mad’ from the ‘sane’ as well as all divisions and the conditions which cause and have caused trauma and distress. This means ending poverty, war, inequality and creating a world which is fair, equal, compassionate and inclusive of everybody.
I’ve experienced healing through psychotherapy, homeopathy, music, meeting the right healers at the right time and latterly through mindfulness, meditation and Buddhism. I am passionate about healing and want everyone to gain the confidence to reach their full potential in life. We are all one on our one beautiful planet, so let’s try and create a beautiful future for all!
NON- MEMBER DIRECTORS
Dr. Alison Thom
Dr. Alison Thom is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director of NHS Lanarkshire South. Originally from Falkirk, she is deeply interested in understanding how things work and – if she hadn’t gone into medicine – would probably have been a teacher or chemical engineer. Alison’s interests include the history of psychiatry, improving medical training and promoting psychiatry as a worthwhile specialisation. Some of Alison’s junior colleagues are astounded by her stories from the past but she hopes that these experiences – good and bad – will help shape services for the future and keep some of the most vulnerable people in our society safe and well. Alison is proud of her VOX involvement and wants good mental health to become everyone’s priority, with a big emphasis on recovery. Alison is married with four children.
My real interest in VOX is as a spokesperson for my mother, who had dementia. She has now passed away, but for the last 4 or 5 years of her life was unable to make official complaints and had to rely on me to do so. I expect that there is no other way for those with Moderate and Advanced Dementia, as well as other debilitating mental illnesses than through a Legal Proxy such as a Welfare Guardian or Power of Attorney. I would like to ensure that my experience as a carer can be used in an advisory capacity within VOX.
Kate McCormack is a Team Manager (Mental Health) in North Ayrshire Council’s Social Work Department and advises VOX on Social Work.
Maria Docherty is a registered Mental Health Nurse and Associate Director of Nursing for Mental Health and Learning Disabilities in NHS Lanarkshire. Her 28-year career has been devoted to advocating and caring for people with learning disabilities and mental health issues.
Elaine Hunter is the Allied Health Professions Advisor for Mental Health to the Scottish Government and advises VOX on all matters relating to Allied Health Professions.
Ronald Franks is responsible for Legal Services Agency’s Mental Health Legal Representation Projects and a part-time legal member and convener of the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland. He is a member of the Law Society of Scotland’s Mental Health and Disability Sub- Committee and Adults with Incapacity Specialist Accreditation Panel. He is the lead author of Greens Annotations to The Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 and editor of the Mental Health Section of Mays Scottish Social Work Legislation.
VOX staff implement VOX priorities on a day to day basis. Learn more about VOX staff and their areas of responsibility from the profiles below – it’s always good to know who you’re talking to when you call the office!