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: 2010
VOX Director since: 2015
I joined VOX in 2010 after having a close working relationship with the organisation for several years. Over the last few years I’ve prepared several reports for VOX, mainly because of my background in welfare rights. I’ve helped prepare VOX responses to Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) consultations, mainly relating to Work Capability Assessments and the introduction of Personal Independence Payments (PIP). I’ve also conducted research for VOX and authored the Real People Real Cuts report into the effects of budget reviews and local authority funding cuts on people with long-term mental health problems.
I have a fifteen year history of involvement in mental health user groups, with my roots in what was called the ‘survivor movement’. I no longer identify myself as a ‘survivor’, ‘service user’ or ‘person with lived experience’ because – at times – we all survive, we all may need to use services, and we all bring our lived experience of the world around us. I am a person with experience of ill health as well as experience of good health and experience of recovery and relapse. What has always helped along that journey is feeling connected to groups, feeling involved and having space where my involvement and participation is valued.
I find the world is often ready to make assumptions, but my own personal background isn’t simple. My family tree shows that I come from a long line of uneducated, itinerant paupers. I was born in Glasgow, went to school in Yorkshire and left with two CSE’s. I wandered around for several years before settling back down in Glasgow. Over the years I’ve been detained, hospitalized, used services and had periods where work wasn’t an option. None of that has featured in the last fifteen years because – in recovery – there’s no end to what is possible. I remarried, started a family, have worked in the UK and had opportunities to work overseas in countries such as Malawi. I have the life I want to lead, it’s not perfect and sometimes I’m not strong, but it is fun.
As soon as I was elected to the VOX Board, a friend reminded me I’d said I’d never do such a thing. There are lots of things I’ve said I’d never do, or never have the chance to do. I would never be able to get married, I would never be able to have children, or return to work, I would never matter or find my place in the world. I hear many other people say these things, and VOX has the opportunity to change all this. VOX isn’t about me, it’s about its members and about making the possibility of change possible. My hope for VOX is that it can be a bigger, more encompassing family where everyone feels that they have a space to feel safe and have their say.
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!