ABOUT VOXAll the gen on VOX – its governance, structure and purpose
VOX 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.
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.
Kate McCormack is a Team Manager (Mental Health) in North Ayrshire Council’s Social Work Department and advises VOX on Social Work.
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.
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.
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!