The Case Of The King’s Sperm

I have been researching the background of the Top Doctor at St George’s Hospital who treated Norman Scott and who undoubtedly knew what Jeremy Thorpe was up to (see post ‘My How Things Haven’t Changed’) and even I am gobsmacked by some of what I have discovered. The Top Doctor concerned was Dr Brian O’Connell and he certainly had some interesting practices and even more interesting colleagues.

Brian O’Connell was Irish but after graduating took up a post as a psychiatrist in Scotland. He then worked for two years at St George’s under Professor Desmond Curran.

Desmond Curran became the first Professor of Psychiatry at St George’s in 1961 and was the person who built up the academic dept of psychiatry there, in which he ‘served’ for three decades. So we have him to thank for that nest of vipers who colluded with Dafydd and the paedophile gang in the early 1990s and who oversaw a number of murders on their own glorious patch at Springfield Hospital during the following years.

Curran was born in Devon and trained at St George’s. He joined the Royal Navy in 1939 as a medic. Which is really interesting because Curran was of a similar vintage to Gwynne the lobotomist – who also served as a medic in the Royal Navy after qualifying in medicine in London. Bear with me – there are more reasons why they could have known each other…

One of Curran’s interests was ‘sexual deviation’, so I can imagine the fun that Curran and his colleagues would have had with patients like Norman Scott who had been sexually exploited by well-connected older men in politics who were denying it and declaring their victims mad. Curran was a member of the Wolfenden Commission on homosexuality – as were a number of Jeremy’s mates such as Lord Boothby. Curran was also an advisor in psychiatry to the Foreign Office and the Home Office – the Home Office that ran the approved schools like Bryn Estyn which were rife with the sexual abuse of boys.

Curran was President of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association (the forerunner to the Royal College of Psychiatrists) 1963-64.

Curran’s biography can be found online in the ‘Lives of the Fellows’ section of the Royal College of Physicians website. It is of course a glowing tribute to him and the hotbed of corruption that he established at St George’s:

‘St George’s became pre-eminent…for it’s department of psychiatry. It’s national and international renown increased steadily during the three decades in which Desmond served it’

Er, OK…

I have found some very interesting letters that Desmond Curran wrote stored in the Wellcome Library in the Eugenics Society Archive. There is a collection of letters there written by Curran from his Wimpole Street address. One letter dated 8 May 1939 concerns a patient who is engaged – she wishes her fiance to undergo sterilisation as she does not consider him suitable to breed as a result of some of his relatives having conditions such as epilepsy or ‘psychosis’. She is requesting Curran’s help – whether her fiancé actually knows that she has approached Curran regarding this matter is unclear, it is simply mentioned that the young man is currently in South Africa. It is not impossible that the young man himself knows nothing of this plan, because Curran is involved in some almost unbelievable plans with certain patients.

One letter from Curran is dated 11 March 1938 and is addressed to a Dr C.P. Blacker at 28 Weymouth Street. It concerns a patient whom Curran describes as ‘a Jewess’ who is caring for ‘an elderly whining Jewish mother’. The patient is married to a man who is unfaithful and who contracted gonorrhoea. Curran writes that the gonorrhoea has been treated but ‘his seed is not active’. Curran explains to Dr Blacker that Elliot Slater had suggested ‘artificial impregnation’. Curran writes ‘if the King was not willing to provide active seed, she could possibly get some from a distinguished scientist or author or whatever quality she wanted’.

Yes, Curran seems to believe that there is a possibility that the FUCKING KING might be willing to donate sperm to a well-to-do patient of Curran’s whom he seems to be helping acquire elite sperm. Before I receive e mails demanding that I be thrown into the Tower for making this up, go online to the Wellcome Library, go to the archives of the Eugenics Society and see those letters for yourselves – there are photographs of them. It is there in black and white, there is no doubt about what is written, it is crystal clear – Curran was going to approach the King to see if he would be willing to donate sperm. That would have been George VI, the present Queen’s father. This really puts Charles, Diana and Camilla into perspective…

Did the King offer this sort of service regularly? It couldn’t have been completely unthinkable or Eliot Slater would never have suggested it. Hadn’t anyone thought about the ramifications? For a start the Royal Family are obsessed with breeding, blood line, hereditary principles etc – the King as sperm donor, it would cause havoc. Any potential baby might be in a position to claim to be the heir to the throne. Are we sure that HM the Queen is the right one sitting on the throne with this sort of thing going on?

So who were the other Top Doctors involved in Curran’s plan, Dr Blacker and Eliot Slater?

Blacker was Carlos Panton Blacker – war hero, psychiatrist and eugenicist. Blacker qualified in 1925, worked at Guy’s psychiatry dept for three years, then worked at the Maudsley. Between 1931-52 Blacker was the Secretary of the Eugenics Society. Blacker was pushing for the Society to promote contraception to ‘reduce the fecundity of the lower, less-able classes’. The flip side of this presumably was helping the better classes gain access to the sperm of the King or if the barrel has to be scraped, donations from distinguished scientists or authors.

Eliot Slater was a pioneer in the field of the ‘genetics of mental disorders’. He held senior posts at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases and the Institute of Psychiatry which was then at the Maudsley. Slater co-edited ‘Clinical Psychiatry’, a leading textbook for psychiatry trainees.

Slater read Natural Sciences at Cambridge and got a third class degree. He then trained as a doctor at St George’s, qualifying in 1928. In 1931 he became a medical officer at the Maudsley. In 1934 he received a travelling fellowship from the Rockerfeller Foundation, which he used to study psychiatric genetics under Bruno Schulz at Forschungsanstalf fur Psychiatrie in Munich. He visited that institution again in 1937.

Bruno Schulz supported the Nazi regime’s early racial hygiene measures and forced sterilisation. In 1934 he published in a journal edited by senior Nazis such as Heinrich Himmler. The Director of the Genetics Dept was Ernst Rudin, the architect of Hitler’s eugenic sterilization policies which were implicated in Action T4.

Whilst he was at the Munich institution, Slater met Lydia Pasternak, sister of the poet Boris, who returned with him to the Maudsley – they later married.

Although Slater later distanced himself from and denounced the Nazi’s ‘unspeakable men’ and their ‘detestable ideology’, after doing this he gained Rudin’s support for two lengthy articles in a German journal and contributed to an academic celebration in Munich in 1939 for Rudin’s 65th birthday, contributing to the festschrift that was published in his honour. Slater also frequently quoted the work of the Munich contingent.

In 1939 the Maudsley was evacuated and Slater became Clinical Director of Sutton Emergency Hospital, where he was responsible for 20,000 psychiatric casualties.

In 1944 Slater co-authored ‘An Introduction To Physical Methods Of Treatment In Psychiatry’ with the appalling William Sargant, Dr David Owen’s old mentor (see post ‘Dr Death’ for details of Sargant, his butchery and the lives that he ruined).

In 1959 Slater helped establish the MRC Psychiatric Genetics Unit at the Maudsley Medical School/Institute of Psychiatry – he directed this until 1969.

Slater was famous for advocating the monogenetic theory of schizophrenia, ie. the notion that schizophrenia is caused by a single partially dominant gene.

Slater edited the British Journal of Psychiatry 1961-72.

He was an enthusiastic proponent of lobotomy even into the 70s – I told you there were Gwynne links. Slater will still have been involved with the Maudsley when Dafydd ‘trained’ there. Slater remained a close associate of William Sargant and like Sargant clung onto discredited dangerous treatments such as insulin shock therapy long after most rational people had left them behind.

After his retirement Slater was a campaigner for euthanasia and a member of the Euthanasia Society.

Slater died in 1983 – one of his four children became a psychiatrist.

Kings College London now has the Institute of Psychiatry under it’s umbrella and it continues to honour the memory of Eliot Slater – it has offered an ‘Eliot Slater Prize In Psychiatry’ since 1983.

Lest readers dismiss the excesses of Curran (who died in 1985), Blacker and Slater as irrelevant bits of an unsavoury past, I will argue that they are not. These men – and men like them such as Sargant – trained psychiatrists who are the ‘towering figures’ in today’s profession, the people who are training present day psychiatrists. It is psychiatry’s desperate desire to keep their madnesses, their inhumanity and indeed their frank abuses under wraps that leads everyone to cover-up for Dafydd and his ilk. Because of the way that medicine works, these doctors are not ‘in the past’. Norman Scott is still alive – despite the best efforts of Jeremy Thorpe – and he will be living with the stupidities of Desmond Curran, the man who sought to procure the King’s sperm, because it was Curran who supervised and mentored the man who treated Norman. Of course as the psychiatric establishment will be quick to point out, Curran’s legacy is also the glorious dept of psychiatry of St Georges. A dept that has obviously been concealing serious wrongdoing in high places for decades – whose staff advise Gov’ts and give ‘expert’ evidence in murder trials…

Desmond Curran co-authored with a man called Martin Roth in the 70s. Martin Roth became Professor Sir Martin Roth, leading figure in psychiatry and President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists 1971-75.

And so it goes on, one crazed generation bequeathing their insanity and cruelty to patients to the following generation…

So what became of Brian O’Connell, Curran’s protégé, who treated Norman?

After his two years at St George’s under Curran, although O’Connell remained associated with St George’s for the next twenty years, he moved to work at the Maudsley. He was Consultant Psychiatrist at the Maudsley 1961-67 and whilst he was there he was seconded to Broadmoor. He got on so well with Jimmy Savile’s mate Pat McGrath, the Top Doctor at Broadmoor (please see additional comments in response to post ‘Wheels Within Wheels Or Flies Drawn To The Same Incestuously Corrupt Shithouse?’), that Pat’s son the novelist Patrick McGrath dedicated his novel ‘Asylum’ to O’Connell. O’Connell then landed a World Health Organisation Fellowship and went to the US, where he toured institutions for the criminally insane no less in 1960-61.

In 1968 O’Connell founded and became the Medical Director of the Northgate Clinic, Edgware, North London, an ‘unconventional holistic and extremely successful centre with teenagers mental health problems’ – now I wonder what that translates as… We will see shortly.

O’Connell didn’t make friends with other Top Doctors, he hung out with people from the literary scene, journos, artists and folk from the world of theatre. O’Connell married Finnuala O’Shannon, an actress and the sister of a broadcaster. After he was widowed in 1992, O’Connell got back together with a former girlfriend, a high profile US journo, Ann Geracimes.

So there’s a few reasons why the wider world never got to hear all about Jeremy Thorpe.

O’Connell was also keen on poker and getting pissed.

He was also a consultant to the Stamford House Remand Centre for Adolescents. This was a Council care institution. In Lords Hansard Feb 1961, there is a question and answer session concerning the very high rate of kids ‘absconding’ from Stamford House. There were many ‘absconders’ from the children’s homes in north Wales – the kids kept running away because they were being beaten and raped.

The National Archives record that in 1963 there was a ‘complaint about indecency by staff’ at Stamford House. I cannot access further details because the file is closed until 2057.

O’Connell sat on Mental Health Review Tribunals. Of course he did.

According to the BMJ’s obituary of him, O’Connell’s life and career was a roaring success from the day that he was born.

O’ Connell’s Guardian obituary stated that he ‘concentrated on boys in trouble with the law’ – just like Dafydd and the Paedophiles’ Friends did – although the Northgate Clinic soon opened it’s doors to girls as well. That always helps, you never know what Girls In Trouble might know about who.

The Guardian noted that O’Connell ‘could be caustic in his putdowns of the pretentious, the promiscuous and the wilful’. So he’s going to be just great with young people who’ve been sexually abused and passed around then isn’t he. It was also noticed that O’Connell could give a ‘flinty glare’. Yeh, that always helps when you want to make a suicidal teenager feel even worse about themselves.

Not that O’ Connell always conducted himself too well. It was remembered that ‘as a young man aerated by champagne….he shinned up the narrow pillar in the middle of a Soho fish restaurant to bombard his feasting friends with soft bread rolls’. A Bullingdon Boy! Furthermore when O’Connell was young, Soho had not yet been cleaned up – so O’Connell was probably hanging out with some very seedy company when he got pissed and conducted a food fight. If I know anything about Top Doctors’ anecdotes in obituaries, that story will have been highly sanitised. I imagine that O’Connell actually did something pretty gross whilst ‘aerated by champagne’. One wonders what he did when he was pissed as an older Top Doctor whom people would be afraid to challenge.

The Guardian also mentioned that although O’Connell was the most articulate cultured man on the planet he preferred to call things ‘shite’. As I do – particularly the practices of Top Doctors like O’Connell.

O’Connell died not long ago but as is the tendency with Top Doctors, his glorious work continues. In Oct 2009 the Guardian ran an article about the Northgate Clinic, now a residential therapeutic unit run by Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust. Kids with ‘serious’ mental health problems who are ‘not safe’ to be cared for in the community live there during the week but return to ‘stable homes’ at the weekend – it is mentioned in passing that the ‘stable home’ at the weekend for many is a children’s home or foster care.

The Guardian explains that no-one is sectioned at the Northgate, everyone signs a contract. Yes that’s a very popular con these days, it was pioneered by St George’s and Springfield. What it involves is ordering the patient to sign a contract stating that if they display whichever problem has deemed them to be in need of care, they will be discharged with no further care. It’s really great – Springfield discharged clinically depressed people for trying to commit suicide and patients with anorexia for refusing to eat. The outcomes are grim but the deaths don’t happen on the hospital premises so it’s not a problem and the mental health facility concerned boasts an excellent recovery rate. It also means that the Northgate can pretend that they provide a liberal non-oppressive environment in interviews with Guardian journos.

The Guardian mentioned that a bed at the Northgate Clinic costs £598/day (that was at 2009 prices), so some NHS organisations are ‘hesitant’ to send patients there. I bet they are – particularly as the Northgate just ensures that anybody with real problems is kicked out for breaking their ‘contract’. The Northgate was probably finding itself rather short of customers which might have been why they were given a free plug in the Guardian by a tame journo. It’ll have been the fault of the Tory cuts. Those Tory cuts under the New Labour Gov’t in 2009. That and the Angels not being paid enough and thus having to root around in skips and food banks for their dinner.

 

Updates From NHS England, March 18 2017

The main focus of this blog is Wales, but I do report on events in NHS England from time to time if they intersect with areas of interest to readers. There have been a few relevant news reports of events in the English NHS over the past few days.

The Guardian ran an article on March 16 in which it was reported that the House of Commons Health Select Committee, chaired by Dr Sarah Woolaston (Con), called for greater restrictions to be placed on the portrayal of suicide in TV dramas to prevent encouraging ‘copycats’ https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/mar/16/tv-dramas-should-not-portray-suicide-methods-say-mps The Committee fears that ‘irresponsible media coverage has a damaging effect on vulnerable people’ and wants the Ofsted broadcasting code strengthened to ‘ensure that detailed description or portrayal of suicide methods, including particular locations where suicide could be easily imitated, are not permissible’. The Samaritans contributed to the debate as well, with their Chief Executive, Ruth Sutherland, stating that ‘strengthening media codes of practice in this area will mean fewer people are put at risk because of irresponsible content’.

I first encountered the notion that portrayal of suicide or attempted suicide in the media could lead to ‘copycat’ behaviour in the early 1990s. An episode of ‘EastEnders’ at the time had featured Angie attempting to kill herself and a moral panic broke out lest the women of Britain all took a leaf out of Angie’s book and followed suit. There followed a piece of research that became famous – I think it was published in either the BMJ or the British Journal of Psychiatry – in which an analysis of the statistics of women admitted to hospital in the wake of attempting suicide by overdose (the method employed by Angie) in the days after the relevant ‘EastEnders’ episode was screened was conducted, in an attempt to find out whether there was a copycat effect. I found all this very interesting at the time, because by then I had started to notice the enormous gulf between what psychiatrists claimed that they did – as evidenced by journal articles and text books – and what they actually did in practice, as evidenced by my experiences at Ysbyty Gwynedd, the North Wales Hospital Denbigh and Springfield Hospital, London (I have detailed such experiences extensively in previous blog posts). I wondered why the profession seemed to take more interest in theoretical arguments pivoting on the possibility that people might be influenced by a TV soap than the welfare of patients under their ‘care’ who were actually suicidal. It reminded me of another debate that had raged in the 1980s, that is whether watching violence on TV or ‘video nasties’ caused children to behave more violently. Researchers like Guy Cumberpatch always maintained that this was not so and instead urged people to pay more attention to the violence that some children were exposed to in real life. It seemed that Guy’s pleas fell on deaf ears – the nation continued to obsess over the likes of ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ and ignored the very real difficulties that a lot of children encountered when they were subjected to violent behaviour at school or in the home.

I was similarly puzzled when I read the Guardian article two days ago. There has now been an admission from the Westminster Gov’t, indeed an admission from Theresa May herself, that the mental health services are dreadful and that people are dying as a result of this. (The Welsh Gov’t hasn’t yet found it in their heart to admit that we’re in exactly the same state.) Yet the Health Select Committee are worrying about what the nation is watching online/on TV. It is highly unlikely that someone feeling fine is going to attempt suicide after witnessing such a scene on their screen – if somebody were to be tipped over the edge thus, they would have to be feeling very rough. Would it not be more sensible to start addressing the lack of help for people who are suicidal – or indeed, the causes of suicide? (One of which is widely suspected to be the Westminster Govt’s butchering of disability and sickness benefits – the DWP has resisted all calls for an investigation into the deaths of the many people who have killed themselves after their benefits have been drastically reduced or even stopped completely. Theresa and Sarah would be better off addressing this, there is every indication that it is a far bigger problem than the content of what people are watching on TV/online.)

As for the intervention from the Samaritans – I do know of Samaritans who are well-motivated and probably very helpful to the people who approach them. But as far as Bangor is concerned, the Samaritans seem to have been troubled for a very long time. In the 1990s in Bangor, the Samaritan’s building was sited next door to the Abbey Road Centre, which housed MIND. The two women who ran MIND – one of whom later trained as a mental health social worker and worked with the dreadful Dr Tony Roberts – absolutely ignored all the accounts of serious malpractice on the part of the mental health services that clients were telling them about. When challenged they would respond with ‘MIND doesn’t deal with complaints’. Whereas the Samaritans excuse for inaction was ‘confidentiality’. They were hearing accounts of serious abuse and criminality. Some ten years later, I became friendly with someone who had knowledge of the Bangor Samaritans and she told me that there was such a problem there that all of the volunteers at the Bangor branch had been sent for retraining. I don’t think it’s done the trick. Four years ago, I was desperately trying to summon help for a friend who had repeatedly tried to kill himself, had been refused all further ‘help’ from the mental health services and was now suicidal again. I knew that MIND were still colluding with the mental health service’s wrongdoing (please see blog post ‘The Mysterious Silence of MIND’), so I rang the Samaritans in Bangor. I encountered a man who on being told that my friend had been a mental health patient simply repeated ‘we don’t deal with them, we’re not trained’. When I tried to impress upon him that there was a very real concern that my friend would kill himself, the Samaritan simply replied that a lot of ‘these people’ do kill themselves. So don’t bother the Samaritans if you’re suicidal with mental health problems because they’re not trained. What is particularly worrying is that in recent years, patients trying to access help at Ysbyty Gwynedd when they have gone to A&E feeling suicidal have not been offered any mental health care but have  simply been given the number of the Samaritans.

In the face of all this, I think what we watch on TV is irrelevant. As for Dr Sarah Woolaston, the Tory MP who is the Chair of the Health Select Committee – as well as being an MP, she is a practicing GP. Sarah Woolaston practices in south Devon – south Devon is not a place where one wants to live if one is experiencing mental health problems. Please see blog posts ‘NHS Chief Executive Collapses In Court After Being Spared Jail’ and ‘How Did These Two Events Ever Happen?’ for more information about being mentally ill in south Devon.

Onto other matters. Today’s ‘Daily Telegraph’ contains an article entitled ‘Security Fears Over GP Records Of 26 Million Patients’. The Telegraph reports that an IT system used by thousands of GPs is not secure and the Information Commissioner is investigating concerns that records held by 2,700 practices – one in three of those in England – can be accessed by ‘hundreds of thousands of strangers’. The IT system in question allows virtually anyone working in pharmacies, hospitals, GP surgeries, care homes and prisons to look up sensitive information about individuals without medical reasons. There is nothing to prevent information gained in this way from being used for malicious reasons or being passed onto criminals. This is a timely warning, because regular readers of this blog will know that not only have I been given documents relating to other patients when I requested my medical records from the Betsi, but that I received an e mail from someone who had traced me via my blog who told me that confidential information relating to me had ended up on her GP files as well as on her Social Services files and police records – this person does not even live in Wales. I have now been in touch with the Information Commissioner myself and am preparing to make representation to them.

To return to the Guardian once more – today they have a major report on the 92% drop in the number of EU nationals registering to work as nurses in England since the Brexit vote in the summer and also report that of the NHS staff from the EU already working in England, thousands are leaving https://www.theguardian.com/uk

There has been much debate in the media regarding the reliance of the NHS – and care homes – in the UK on overseas workers, including those from the EU. Wales especially stands to be clobbered very badly if these people are not allowed to remain in the UK or simply perceive such a hostile atmosphere that they leave anyway, as an enormous proportion of doctors in Wales are not from the UK. I suspect that this is one reason why Plaid are too frightened to level any criticism at all towards the NHS and medical establishment in Wales. Leanne has dreams of becoming First Minister and indeed reassured the nation in a radio interview during the last Assembly election campaign that although she is a committed Republican, she would be quite happy to toady to HM the Queen in the time-honoured way should she become First Minister. I was very disappointed to hear this, because the one admirable thing that Leanne has done during her time in the Assembly was to refer to a certain ‘Mrs Windsor’ (although shouldn’t it have actually been ‘Mrs Mountbatten’?), refuse to withdraw the remark and thus get sent out of the chamber by Dafydd Elis-Thomas, who was Presiding Officer at the time. Presumably Leanne has a recurring nightmare of being First Minster in a country completely devoid of doctors. The answer Leanne is not to fail to speak out about the abuses of the medical establishment which are resulting in people in Wales dying, it is to fight the institutional corruption within that establishment so that good doctors actually want to work in Wales – at the moment they don’t and organisations like the Betsi are having to employ anyone willing to work for them (which is an ever decreasing number). By the way, the one good psychiatrist that the Betsi does have is Italian. He has been subjected to much racism and generally objectionable behaviour by his colleagues – whom Leanne and the other ‘progressive’ politicians don’t dare criticise.

 

 

The Biggest Expert Of The Lot

Previous blog posts have described my concerns regarding the activities of some people associated with the north Wales mental health services and the way in which they have constructed themselves as ‘experts’, despite the dire state of the services with which they are associated (please see blog posts ‘Experts In Suicide Prevention??’,  ‘More Experts and Their Expertise’,  ‘Compassion, Intelligent-Kindness and Shame’ , ‘An Expert On The Betsi Board!’ and ‘Its’ Those Experts From The Betsi Again!’) One of these ‘experts’, who is employed as a psychiatrist at the notorious Hergest Unit, Dr David Healy, has become internationally famous for ‘bravely taking on’ Big Pharma. But no-one seems to have looked at what has been going on in the very unit in which Healy works.

There is however another ‘expert’ who is probably even more well-known – certainly to lay people – who now has achieved an international reputation for fashionable ‘pioneering’ work and who maintains that he began this work when he was Professor of Clinical Psychology at Bangor University. That is Professor Mark Williams of ‘mindfulness’ fame. Mark Williams has previously featured on this blog in the post ‘Experts In Suicide Prevention??’ However it was with mindfulness that Mark Williams really hit the big time.

Long, long ago, when the North Wales Hospital Denbigh was still in operation and when the Hergest Unit was newly opened, I first heard about mindfulness. There was a psychiatrist in the Hergest Unit, who, in about 1992-3, was telling his patients – including me – that a Professor Mark Williams was interested in something called mindfulness which was based on a Buddhist meditation technique and had been used in America for patients with chronic pain. This psychiatrist suffered from chronic pain himself and found that the painkillers normally prescribed were making him sleepy which was causing him a problem at work, so he was trying to use mindfulness to live with the pain. He told me and some other patients that Mark Williams was interested in using mindfulness with patients suffering from depression and he gave me a copy of Jon Kabat-Zin’s book ‘Full Catastrophe Living’ to read – Kabat-Zin was the man whose work had inspired Williams. After I read the book I was invited to try out mindfulness with a group of other patients. We were all herded into a communal room, along with a few staff who wanted to try mindfulness as well, and we were taken through the introduction to mindfulness that will be familiar to anyone who has undertaken a mindfulness course – the exercise of ‘mindfully’ eating a raisin. We didn’t ever see or meet Williams himself, this particular ‘class’ was taken by a woman who I think was an occupational therapy assistant. Most of the other patients hadn’t read the Kabat-Zin book and very obviously didn’t understand the philosophy behind mindfulness, but had gone to the group in the same spirit as they went to other activities, such as cooking, yoga etc – to do something with their friends. (In those days the Hergest Unit still had a day centre which offered activities.) I noticed the woman leading the group didn’t give a very clear explanation as to the rationale behind mindfulness either, so most patients were a bit mystified as to why they were chewing on a raisin. Although I was told that Williams was interested in using mindfulness with patients suffering from depression, I noticed that this group consisted of a collection of patients with a whole range of different diagnoses (a bit like the research’ conducted into Seasonal Affective Disorder with the light box that I described in my blog post ‘More Experts and Their Expertise’). I should stress here that the diagnoses that the Hergest Unit arrived at were often quite questionable – people would be given three or four different diagnoses over a period of time and they were frequently given completely different diagnoses again if they sought advice from psychiatrists outside of north Wales. There was very little consistency. These mindfulness sessions were supposed to take place weekly ever a period of I think it was six (or eight) weeks. The attrition rate was very high and most people – including me – gave up after three weeks or so. There was very obviously no structure to these sessions and no encouragement to continue or explanation of what was supposed to be achieved. Had I not read the Kabat-Zin book I would have been completely in the dark.

I didn’t return to any more mindfulness groups at the Hergest Unit, but I was aware that they continued. Most patients couldn’t really understand what was behind it all and the most commonly heard comment was ‘well we all had to eat a raisin but very slowly’ – some patients were clearly baffled as to why they were being fed raisins. This suggested to me that most patients weren’t really getting beyond the first session. It very obviously made no sense to most of them. However, there was one group of people who really enjoyed mindfulness, embraced it wholeheartedly and even started going on little mindfulness ‘retreats’. That was the staff – but then the staff weren’t struggling with severe mental health problems whilst on low incomes whilst being on the receiving end of a chaotic, neglectful and abusive service which criminalised them if they complained…

I continued to hear rumblings about mindfulness, although I took very little notice of it. I did not ever meet another patient at that time who told me that they practised it or that it had helped them. I noticed that the psychiatrist who had been so enthusiastic about mindfulness continued to struggle, both with chronic pain and depression, and he eventually took early retirement. By the time that he retired, his relationship with his colleagues had become so sour that he requested that only patients attend his leaving party, not staff. By this time the Hergest Unit was obviously in trouble and staff relationships were clearly very dysfunctional (please see blog post ‘The Hergest Unit, Ysbyty Gwynedd’).

Mindfulness next touched my life in about 2002. A friend in a hill-walking group worked as a doctor for the North West Wales NHS Trust and his office was located in the same building as the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice that had now been established by Mark Williams at Bangor University. This friend was very worried about the activities of the mindfulness devotees and felt that mindfulness was being so ruthlessly promoted that it was almost like a cult. I remember that he was particularly irked that leaflets promoting mindfulness were being left around his part of the building, although he was nothing to do with this group. This friend was one of the many who found working for the North West Wales NHS Trust very difficult and he left his job after a period of serious depression and relocated to south Wales.

About a year and a half after this, I had a truly extraordinary experience with Judith Soulsby, one of Mark Williams’s colleagues, who was initially employed as a research officer by Williams and since then has been heavily involved in the Bangor University Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice and still is today. Judith is a regular at the mindfulness retreats at Trigonos in Dyffryn Nantlle and I think she is classed as a mindfulness teacher or trainer, but I had never heard of her when I first encountered her. She has co-authored a number of papers with Mark Williams and others. At the time, I was recovering from a truly dreadful stay in the Hergest Unit during which I was assaulted by staff; my usual psychiatrist and key worker had been ordered off my case against their and my wishes by the awful Dr Tony Roberts, I had been discharged with no aftercare and was then arrested for ‘threatening to kill Alun Davies’, the manager of the Hergest Unit (please see blog post ‘Interesting Happenings In The Legal System’). I was then refused all care and treatment and Roberts also intimidated a number of other practitioners into not treating me. I could not get treatment anywhere, despite experiencing severe depression. My friends were incredibly supportive and kept me going, but I spotted an advert placed by a Judith Soulsby, for mindfulness for anxiety and depression. I remembered the mindfulness from the Hergest Unit from years ago and the Kabat-Zin book and wondered if I should give it another go – particularly as there was no other treatment options open to me. So I rang the number supplied in the advert and got through to Judith. A bizarre exchange followed. I explained to Judith that I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was interested in trying mindfulness. I told Judith that if she wanted corroborating details of my condition she was welcome to speak to my former key worker from the Hergest Unit (that was the whistleblowing occupational therapist mentioned previously on this blog – he was sufficiently horrified by Dr Tony Roberts’s actions and Hergest’s attempt to stitch me up for a serious crime that he had stayed in touch with me as a friend). Judith asked if I was a Hergest patient. I explained that I had been but wasn’t any longer. She then said ‘oh I’m afraid we don’t accept Hergest patients on this course’. I was gobsmacked – after all, some ten years earlier, mindfulness had been robustly promoted to every patient in the place. I asked Judith for her reasons. She simply replied that mindfulness wasn’t suitable for Hergest patients. She was then kind enough to tell me that she hoped that I would find what I was looking for (whatever it was it clearly wasn’t going to be forthcoming from Judith and the Bangor University Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice). I got the impression that Judith might as well have said that they didn’t take nutters. I rang the whistleblowing occupational therapist to relate this encounter and it transpired that he knew Judith. He told me that she had previously worked with the notoriously abusive Arfon Community Mental Health Team (please see blog post ‘The Arfon Community Mental Health Team’) and all he could remember about her was that she spent an awful lot of time off sick. I had never heard of Judith, but I presume that either she had heard about me from her delightful colleagues in the Arfon Community Team or that the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University indeed didn’t accept nutters.

When I later began my PhD I met people who were very cynical about the Bangor University Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice – it seemed that it did not have much credibility with a lot of people, but I heard that they were running Masters degrees. It transpired that one didn’t actually need any formal qualifications to register for their Masters degree, so I decided to take an interest. I found that the Bangor University Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice was growing and that Mark Williams had recently departed for a Chair at Oxford University but was still very involved with the Bangor University Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice. I then read one of Mark Williams initial books on mindfulness  – ‘Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy For Depression’; Segal, Williams and Teasdale (2002) – an account of how they’d developed MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy). Although John Teasdale was based at Cambridge University and Zindel Segal was based at the University of Toronto, it was explained in this book that it had all started at Bangor and I also noticed that Keith Fearns of the Arfon Mental Health Team was mentioned in the acknowledgments. I was gobsmacked – here was a technique derived from meditation, being promoted as successful with depressed patients and involving such worthy sentiments as compassion, yet it seemed that Fearns, who was once described to me by a former social worker as ‘the most abusive professional that I have ever met’, was involved. There were also acknowledgments to Sheila Jenkins, another deeply unpleasant member of the Arfon Team, and of course to Judith Soulsby, who had refused to allow a former Hergest patient to join a mindfulness group. So a form of therapy was being promoted that had grown out of the chaos, neglect and abuse that was/is the north Wales mental health services and the Arfon Community Mental Health Team.

I wondered who had been in the original clinical trials. Had the trials been carried out at the Hergest Unit? If such success had been achieved, why had I not heard about it? I knew scores of patients who had been involved with the mental health services but I’d never met anyone among them who had been in a clinical trial for mindfulness or even said that they had benefited from mindfulness and practiced it. (Although by this time, I had become friends with someone who did practice mindfulness – but she had never passed through the mental health system. She was a member of a Buddhist Sangha and had spent a lifetime involved in alternative communities and had met Jon Kabat-Zin some years before.) I continued to wonder where the original clinical trials for MBCT had been carried out.

One of Mark Williams’s early publications regarding the success of MBCT, ‘Prevention of Relapse/Recurrence In Major Depression By Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy’; Teasdale, Segal, Williams, Ridgeway, Lau and Soulsby, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2000, 68 (4): 615-623, tells us that three sites were involved in a randomised clinical trial, the sites being Bangor, Cambridge and Toronto. 145 patients were recruited – it was stressed that at the Cambridge site, no members of academic staff or students from Cambridge University were recruited. The inclusion criteria state that patients met DSM-III-R criteria for a history of recurrent major depression. The exclusion criteria were, among other things, patients with a history of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, current substance abuse, eating disorder or OCD, organic mental disorder, pervasive developmental delay, or borderline personality disorder and dysthymia before the age of 20. Read the paper here teasdaleetal

I note that the patients at the Bangor site were described as being patients of a community mental health team in Bangor. So that would have been the notorious Arfon Team then, which would explain the acknowledgments to Keith Fearns and Sheila Jenkins. (Many years later, after numerous complaints against them, the Arfon Team were investigated for neglecting patients and a number of them, including Keith Fearns, were removed from their posts.) Now for all I know, Mark Williams and his colleagues may have carried out such a randomised clinical trial and may have achieved the results that they published. But people who were familiar with the practices of the Hergest Unit and Arfon Mental Health Team at the time remember the very elastic diagnoses that patients were being given and the very poor care which sometimes constituted neglect and abuse. There is a very real possibility that patients in this trial would have received a different diagnosis – or indeed a number of different diagnoses – before or after the trial. For example, during the period that I was involved with the mental health services in north west Wales I received at different times all of the following diagnoses: depression, personality disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, paranoid personality disorder, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. I concluded back then that these people simply had no idea what they were doing, but over the past few days I have been reading documents from my medical records that I have only recently acquired and what strikes me is that the diagnoses tended to depend on whether and to what degree I needed discrediting at the time, or whether the ‘service’ needed to find a reason not to treat me. I was by no means alone in north west Wales in my collection of different diagnoses. So where does this leave the inclusion and exclusion criteria used in this trial, at least for the Bangor site? And if there was a new treatment available in Bangor for relapsing/recurring depression why did this news not spread like wildfire? I didn’t hear a thing – the mental health services continued to be dreadful and the suicide rate in north Wales remained one of the highest in the UK. One would have thought that if Bangor had been an experimental site with enthusiastic committed practitioners, the mental health services would be of the highest quality. But no-one seems to have noticed this.

In the years that followed, mindfulness generated enormous interest. Mark Williams established the Oxford Mindfulness Centre within the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University. Patrons included one Lady Lavender Patten of Barnes aka Mrs Chris Patten. Chris Patten aka Lord Patten of Barnes was then and still is Chancellor of the University of Oxford. Mark Williams has now retired and the website of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre has recently been revamped, listing different Trustees. One of the current Trustees is Chris Ruane, a former Labour politician from north Wales who was the driving force behind alerting Parliament to the miracle of mindfulness. Chris Ruane too would have known how bad the mental health services were in north Wales. He went to school in north Wales and for many years his constituency was the Vale of Clwyd, just down the road from the notorious North Wales Hospital Denbigh.

At one point some three years ago a friend and I found a You Tube clip of Mark Williams explaining that he wanted to establish a foundation to ensure that mindfulness would continue for generations and generations to come – what was he planning, a Thousand Year Reich? Mark Williams was also very keen that MBCT should acquire recognition from NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) as an effective treatment for depression. There was an awful lot of research being done by then in the field of mindfulness generally, but a lot of the research and analyses on MBCT and whether it was effective had been done by Mark Williams and his colleagues or people whom he had trained or who were networked with him – ‘true believers’. At this point I’d like to introduce readers to a paper from the British Medical Journal that I came across recently, ‘Conflicts of Interest and Spin In Reviews of Psychological Therapies: A Systematic Review’; Lieb, van der Osten-Sacken, Stoffers-Winterling, Reiss and Barth, 2016, BMJ Open http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/4/e010606.full

This paper raises some important issues which seem to have been largely overlooked and is worth reading in full. Conflicts of interest involving researchers receiving funding from pharmaceutical companies are extensively discussed even in the lay press, but Lieb et al raise the issue of a different sort of conflict of interest – researcher allegiance regarding psychological therapies, ie. the belief of a researcher in the superiority of a psychological therapy when reviewing outcomes of this therapy. Allegiance may be due to a special training in one specific psychological therapy, the involvement in previous efficacy research about this psychological therapy or the involvement in development of aetiological models via basic research. Williams and his colleagues developed MBCT, published the initial research into the efficacy of MBCT and his co-authors like Judith Soulsby and Rebecca Crane had received special training in MBCT. Lieb et al maintain that empirical studies show a strong impact of researcher allegiance on outcome in psychotherapy studies…

Mindfulness has truly taken off in the last few years and after Chris Ruane – whilst he was still an MP –  vigorously promoted it to colleagues in Westminster, the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group was established and in October 2015 their report ‘Mindful Nation’ was published http://www.themindfulnessinitiative.org.uk/images/reports/Mindfulness-APPG-Report_Mindful-Nation-UK_Oct2015.pdf The Preface to this report mentions that the Parliamentary group heard from ‘some of those who experienced the transformational impacts of mindfulness’. The Parliamentary Group were deeply impressed by mindfulness and wax lyrical about the near-miracles that they seemed to believe that it can achieve  – among many other things, they recommended that MBCT should be commissioned in the NHS in line with NICE guidelines for patients with recurring depression and funding made available to train mindfulness teachers. The Parliamentary Group’s whole-hearted embrace of mindfulness is so uncritical that it is worth readers taking the time to read this report themselves. But I am interested in who contributed to this All-Party Report. Firstly, Jon Kabat-Zin – he writes the foreward to the Report. But read the Appendix 1, List of Expert Witnesses – there are some very familiar names here from familiar institutions. Again and again people who already have what could only be described as vested interests in mindfulness were relied upon as ‘experts’ – there are names of people who have been part of Mark Williams’s network for years, including a number from Bangor University eg. Sharon Hadley, Rebecca Crane and Jo Rycroft-Malone. Sharon Hadley is the Manager of Bangor University’s Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice and Rebecca Crane is a mindfulness trainer, has been a leading light in Bangor Mindfulness for many years and is now Director of the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University. Jo Rycroft-Malone has featured on this blog before (please see posts ‘An Expert On The Betsi Board’ and ‘Conflicts Of Interest – and Some Very Big Salaries’) She sits on the Betsi Board and in 2103 received a grant of £448,000 from the National Institute for Health Research’s Health Service and Delivery Research Programme to investigate the ‘accessibility and implementation in UK services of an effective depression relapse programme: Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy’. Her collaborators on this project were William Kuyken (then at Exeter University, who has now succeeded Mark Williams as Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre at Oxford University and who is a long-standing collaborator of Mark Williams and his team) and Rebecca Crane. I note with some surprise that Jo’s Bangor University web page also describes her as the Director of the National Institute for Health Research’s Health Service and Delivery Research Programme, ie. the body that funded her research into MBCT https://www.bangor.ac.uk/healthcaresciences/research/people/jorm.php.en

So a number of the ‘experts’ that the All-Party Group relied upon stood to personally benefit in a substantial way should mindfulness find its way into Gov’t policy. As for the All-Party Group recommending that MBCT should be recommended by NICE – well Jo Rycroft-Malone is Chair of the NICE Implementation Strategy Group. I believe that MBCT has now been recommended by NICE…

The mindfulness bandwagon continues to roll on. Mark Williams has developed an enormous international network and his books on mindfulness have been translated into many languages. Interestingly enough, his ‘life changing best-seller’ ‘Mindfulness, a Practical Guide To Finding Peace In A Frantic World’ was co-authored with Danny Penman, who is a former Daily Mail journalist, rather than an academic psychologist. This book – and Williams’s work on mindfulness – received a further boost when endorsed by Ruby Wax (who had previously endorsed the charity ‘Kid’s Company’….). Ruby Wax has famously undertaken the Masters in mindfulness at Oxford University with Mark Williams. At one point Wax was stating in interviews that she had a Masters in ‘brain science’ from Oxford University but I see latterly that she is describing it as a Masters in mindfulness – presumably a real ‘brain scientist’ contacted her and pointed out the difference. I have also heard Ruby give interviews in which she stated that she had no previous qualifications and had always believed that she was stupid until Oxford University accepted her on a Masters course. One assumes then, that as at Bangor University, one does not need any formal qualifications to enrol for the Masters in mindfulness. Mark Williams obviously spotted Ruby’s huge potential.

Mark Williams has now retired and has almost vanished from Oxford University’s  Oxford Mindfulness Centre website (Chris Patten’s wife has also disappeared). But he is still listed as a Principal Investigator of one of the Wellcome Trust funded research projects that the Centre is running, a project promoting mindfulness in schools, again based on MBCT. The website boasts that the Centre has netted research funding of nearly £7 million.

I know of people at Bangor University who worked with Mark Williams many years ago who are not particularly complimentary about mindfulness or Williams’s management style – but many of them until recently still used him as a referee for research funding or had previously co-authored with him. These people also knew the reality of mental health care in north Wales. But no-one has breathed a word…

More recently, I know of one man in Snowdonia who followed one of Rebecca Crane’s mindfulness courses ‘in the community’ after experiencing terrible problems with prescribed anti-depressants and who became very interested in mindfulness and wanted to follow it up after the eight week MBCT course. I was told that although the promotional literature advertised that follow-up would be available, he did not find this to be true. However he persisted, followed up himself and became very committed to mindfulness meditation and practice, gaining much experience. I would have presumed that this man would have been a brilliant ‘advert’ for – and addition to – Rebecca Crane’s Centre in Bangor and I asked him if he had ever thought of trying to get a job as a trainer or teacher with them. He told me that he had approached them but gained the impression that paid work at the Centre was the preserve of a small clique.

Mindfulness has gripped much of the western world, but voices of dissent can now be heard. Academic critiques are being published and some people with a longstanding commitment to Buddhist meditation are raising concerns regarding what has been done in its name. Whilst casually perusing google scholar last year I came across extracts from a highly critical edited volume, which included a chapter by a practising Buddhist. This man maintained that he had attended a mindfulness course at Bangor University led by Mark Williams and had been ostracised by the rest of the group for daring to question Williams. He also observed that he gained the impression that the version of mindfulness meditation that Williams was promoting seemed to have been developed with a view to gaining research funding.

There is undoubtedly a group of people who do enjoy mindfulness meditation and maintain that it is indeed transformative, but they tend to be well-educated, with a previous interest in ‘alternative’ medicine or spirituality. Interestingly some of these people are also very uncomfortable with what is now happening – they do not feel that mindfulness should be ‘sold’ to the US military establishment or  to global corporations to improve workers’ productivity. But then the beauty of mindfulness as devised by Williams et al is that neoliberalism can use it to prop up toxic work environments or support the retraction of welfare services. A dreadful employer only has to give staff twenty minutes a day to practice mindfulness and the employer can thus show their enlightenment and ‘compassion’ as well as tell the staff that they should be able to cope with their work environment – after all, it’s their reaction that is the problem not the environment. And I was interested to hear Ruby Wax interviewed on Radio 4 recently in which she plugged one of Mark Williams’s mindfulness volumes as being the book that changed her life. Towards the end of the interview, Ruby spoke about how she had spent years consulting mental health professionals but hadn’t found the solution to her problems, but the good thing about mindfulness was that you don’t need anyone else – ‘cure yourself!’ Yes Ruby, that is the only choice that so many people in north Wales have been left with for so long – but they aren’t millionaire celebrities, so their lives and options are somewhat more constrained than yours.

Somebody recently drew my attention to an article in the Guardian in which Rebecca Crane was quoted as expressing concerns regarding the quality of some mindfulness training and the quality of some trainers. Well this is a fairly obvious consequence of the large scale rolling out of a business model that involves charging people to undertake a Masters degree requiring no previous formal qualifications that then qualifies one as a mindfulness trainer/teacher, enabling the said trainer/teacher to transform the world and resolve any personal problems – and of course to then charge others to do the same. I think it used to be called ‘pyramid selling’.

Even if one accepts that some people find mindfulness helpful and that Mark Williams and his colleagues may have genuinely believed that MBCT was an effective ‘treatment’ for recurring depression – and I fully accept that there are problems with medications used for depression and that many people have been and are prescribed these medications when they do not want them and do not find them in the least bit helpful – I cannot help but wonder at the claims now being made regarding mindfulness by Williams et al. They are maintaining that a mindful approach has the potential to transform virtually every area of society. Did no-one think to look at what was happening in that cradle of mindfulness, the mental health services in north west Wales, in particular the Arfon Mental Health Team and the Hergest Unit? These services have remained highly abusive and neglectful, patients continue to die and the Betsi, the Health Board concerned, is now mired in scandal and in special measures – and one person acknowledged in Williams’s initial work was later removed from his job under after an investigation into patient neglect. (I note that references to Keith Fearns et al have disappeared from Williams’s later books and the second editions of the early books.) Yet the language of mindfulness is that of compassion. Readers of this blog will be well aware that there was and is very little of that to be found in the Hergest Unit or in the Arfon Mental Health Team. Mark Williams was working as a clinical psychologist at Bangor University whilst the mental health services were centred around the North Wales Hospital Denbigh and he remained there whilst the Hergest Unit descended into madness and chaos. He has remained silent about all this and clearly was not able to use mindfulness to bring about any sort of transformation at all in north west Wales. What he did do was escape to Oxford University and leave it all behind….

There is one very sad  individual story among all this. Readers may remember that at the beginning of this post, I described how there was one psychiatrist at the Hergest Unit who was enormously excited about mindfulness, who had begun using it himself, who lent me the Kabat-Zin book and who was encouraging his patients to use mindfulness. Did it work for him? I don’t know what his thoughts on this were because after he retired I lost contact with him. Some four years ago I was told that he had killed himself.

I have been musing over all this with my friend Brown recently. What fascinates me is why Mark Williams ever went to Bangor in the first place. He arrived there in 1991 from Cambridge University. The north Wales mental health services were so bad that they constituted a major political embarrassment (nothing has changed) – Dafydd Alun Jones and Denbigh were notorious throughout Wales. I wondered if perhaps Mark Williams really knew nothing about what was happening there. I think before he worked at Cambridge University he had worked in Newcastle. Maybe he didn’t know Wales at all. But then I found out something very interesting. John Teasdale, Mark Williams’s close colleague and co-author of the MBCT work who worked with Mark Williams when they were both employed at Cambridge University, had previously worked as a clinical psychologist in Cardiff, at the University Hospital of Wales. Teasdale will have therefore known about north Wales. I had a friend who was a medical student in Cardiff University in the 80s and in 1984 as her cohort were all beginning their clinical placements she told me that they all dreaded being sent to Bangor because the tales that returning medical students told were just so grim. And that wasn’t even Denbigh. I think it very unlikely that Teasdale had not mentioned the appalling reputation of the north Wales mental health services to Williams when Williams was offered the Chair at Bangor University. The first thing that anyone does when they apply for or are offered a senior position in a university or the NHS is to ask all their mates and colleagues what they know about the place and the people that they will be working with. Why on earth would a promising young psychologist already establishing himself among a network of credible people leave a highly regarded unit in Cambridge University to come to a service dominated by Dafydd Alun Jones? North Wales has of course always attracted a group of people who come here because they are Welsh and want to return home, or because they are keen climbers/outdoor activity enthusiasts or ecologists. Mark Williams is none of these – and it seems that people in Bangor University knew a long time ago that Mark Williams’s ultimate goal was a Chair at Oxford University. North Wales was not an obvious career move. The only thing about Mark Williams and his interests that fits in with people attracted to north Wales is the ‘alternative spiritualities’ bit – the Bangor area, along with mid-Wales, since the late 60s/early 70s, has been a magnet for people seeking alternative lifestyles. The region is full of ‘old hippies’ and there were many communities of people with interests in things like alternative medicine, Buddhism and meditation. I know some of these people and a lot of them know about and have been very impressed with the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University. Most of these people are originally from middle-class backgrounds and are usually quite well-educated but few of them are academics or have received an education in science. Mark Williams’s attraction to a Chair at Bangor University remains a puzzle. But Brown – as he so often does – pointed out something very salient. On arriving at Bangor University, Williams would have found that the most senior posts in the region were log-jammed by people like Dafydd Alun Jones and if Williams had really had his ear to the ground he may even have heard that a paedophile ring was operating across north Wales in Gwynedd and Clwyd Social Services. Opportunities for advancement would have been very limited and he would have realised that Dafydd Alun Jones et al had such a grip on the region that they were not going to go anywhere and were very difficult to negotiate around. Patient care was appalling and was obviously going to remain so all the time that Dafydd et al were in place, so there weren’t going to be any improvements there.  But Dafydd et al knew nothing about research and weren’t interested anyway – and I bet there was no research governance in place. So mental health practitioners claiming an interest in research would be able to do pretty much what they wanted, publish it as well and there would be nobody to question what they were doing or ask for the evidence. What an opportunity! I only know one person who has ever questioned Mark Williams about his research. That was a former Hergest Unit patient who, along with so many of us, was having terrible problems with both the Hergest Unit and the Arfon Mental Health Team. He was at one point referred to Mark Williams because of his serious self-harming. He has always described his encounters with Williams in very negative terms and maintained that Williams’s techniques ‘didn’t work’. These were not mindfulness techniques, but techniques to supposedly deal with self-harm. Sometime after he decided to stop seeing Williams, this man told me that Williams published his book ‘Cry of Pain’, an investigation into self-harming and suicide. After reading this book, this man became convinced that Mark Williams had used him as research for this book without his consent. I have no idea why this man believed this, but about four years ago this man called in all his medical records via lawyers, and like me, found the most extraordinary things had been documented by staff at the Hergest Unit and the Arfon Team. He then wrote to Mark Williams and cc’d his letter to the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, asking Williams if he had ever been part of a research project and would Williams be willing to give him access to the original research data. Williams wrote a very polite letter back, assuring this man that he had not been part of any research project, but saying that he could not give him access to the data because he no longer had it. Which is interesting because even I still have most of my research data and I haven’t held successive Chairs, established research institutes and built an international reputation on my data. In my experience, people keen on writing do tend to keep their data, because you never know when it might come in useful for another publication or follow-up project. Shortly after my friend received Williams’s letter, a notice appeared on Williams’s Oxford University profile announcing that he had retired and would not be accepting anymore PhD students.

Whilst searching for Mark Williams’s early work on mindfulness in the library the other day, I came across a book written by David Healy in 1993, ‘Images of Trauma’. David Healy published some work with Mark Williams years ago and Williams has also published with Helen Healy, Healy’s wife. ‘Images of Trauma’ contains an eccentric but fascinating piece under ‘Acknowledgments’. Healy describes this book as a ‘joyride’ and ‘as with any joyride there is a certain disregard of convention’. He reminds readers that a reviewer of his last book ‘complained about the cavalier approach to references and facts’. Healy quips that ‘as regards the references, the approach here may be less than a law-abiding Sunday driver might like’. He was ‘happy enough with the reviewer’s qualms about my brushing up against the red reference cones on the edge of the motorway’ and had ‘announced beforehand that some disregard for established facts seemed inevitable’. Healy compares the plot of this book to progress along a multi-laned motorway and that ‘switching from lane to lane inevitably make drivers who stick to one lane nervous’ but he states that ‘it is difficult to know what to make of appeals to stay in lane’. David Healy then goes on to state that ‘as in most cases of joyriding I have had passengers in the back. Some have been hijacked; these include Ian Rickard…’ (Ian Rickard was formerly a senior nurse at the Hergest Unit, one of the many who failed to investigate my complaint about Dr Dafydd Alun Jones trying to bribe me into dropping an earlier complaint about him. Brown heard the telephone conversation in which Jones tried to do this and wrote to Ian Rickard. When I received no reply, Ian Rickard told me that he ‘hadn’t received’ Brown’s letter. A few days ago when I received some newly released documents regarding my medical files, there was a copy of Brown’s letter to Ian Rickard. Ian Rickard more recently has joined the disgraced Keith Fearns on the committee of the North West Wales Branch of the BABCP, the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies.) David Healy continues ‘Others have been there before and have come along again for the ride, perhaps partly out of a fascination at the possibility of disaster…they have individually or collectively screamed from the back seat….Another group of back-seat passengers have been the patients…The book is in many ways an apology for my/our abiding inability to get them much further towards where they want to go than they could get under their own steam.’

Many years ago David Healy was prosecuted and fined for dangerous driving in Menai Bridge.

So whilst Mark Williams established himself as a guru and David Healy carried on revelling in joy-riding despite listening to the screams of other people, I nearly went to prison for something that everyone knew that I didn’t do. And a great many people died.