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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 22:30 GMT 23:30 UK
I survived mental illness
The government plans to give doctors in England and Wales the power to lock up people with severe mental illness and force them to receive treatment against their will.

Rufus May, 33, is a clinical psychologist working with people with mental illnesses in Bradford. He has also been treated for schizophrenia himself.

This is his reaction to the government's new tough approach to mental health.


I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1986. I was 18 years old.

I would have loved people to have negotiated my care with me - worked with me rather than doing treatment to me.

Instead they were not able to treat me as an equal and it felt like I was subhuman.

It filled me with despair.

The only way I could have power was to be mad and be difficult and challenging.

Of course, I was very confused. But no-one tried to help me make sense of what was happening.


I was put into hospital three times against my will

I've learnt through my work that even when people are at their most distressed you can still work with them.

You need to give them clear feedback about what's going on and involve them in their treatment.

If you don't, you break their spirit.

'Doctor knows best'

It definitely made me worse.

I was put into hospital three times against my will. And when I got on with the medication, I tried to work with my psychiatrist.

I was 19 and at college studying art but I couldn't draw a straight line so I wrote to him and asked for my medication to be reduced. He refused point blank.

So I moved away and managed my schizophrenia on my own. I finished my degree and then did a doctorate in clinical psychology.

Under this new legislation, that psychiatrist could have had me detained and forcibly drugged. The emphasis is the 'doctor knows best'.


If you treat people like children that is all they will become

If I had listened to the doctors, I wouldn't be a psychologist now. I wouldn't have been able to do this on the medication.

It would have been a liquid strait jacket.

I'm not anti-drugs but I think all treatment should be individual and give patients a choice.

All the research from recovered people like me shows that people need to be given responsibility.

If you treat people like children that is all they will become.

It's very easy to become institutionalised and a permanent, dependent psychiatric patient.

'Marginalised group'

Usually young people don't get out of the system because they've got no other way of defining themselves.

I think the government is exaggerating the link between mental health problem and violence.

Violence by people with alcohol or drugs problems is far worse but you don't see them being institutionalised. There would be an outcry.

This is a group which is already marginalised and is an easy target.

I can't see this making any difference to my job or to the people I work with who have mental health problems, except to make them trust us less.

See also:

25 Jun 02 | Health
25 Jun 02 | Health
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