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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Smash the Glass Ceilings, Ignore the Official Stone Walls


Jonathan Naess is a manic depressive, very successful legal partner with city firm Nabarro-Wells and Co and founder of new MH recovery model iniative 'Stand to Reason'. Jonathan was recently described by the Guardian's MH correspondent David Brindle as 'Mental Health's Voice of Reason'.

Jonathan hopes his organisation Stand to Reason will address workplace stigma and discrimination and smash the glass ceilings that he believes workers with MH issues face. In the Guardian article and on his website Mr Naess explained how he equated Stand to Reason with Stonewall, the political pressure group that campaigned for gay equal rights for 14 years and then in 2003 , after many of its political aims had been achieved , became a registered charity and adopted a less political and more educational role.

I entered into correspondence with Mr Naess because the Guardian article presented him as a maverick independent service user activist when in fact he has very close links to the system. This type of misrepresentation has now become very common in MH circles , for some reason the well connected feel they need to dupe people and underhandedly network outcomes rather than explain their case and take other peoples points of view on board.

Because of the comparison to ' Stonewall ' he made , its there on the Stand to Reason website too, I questioned Jonathan about the way the officially favoured and relentlessly pushed recovery model was creating a new form of 'stigma and discrimination' for MH services users who could not conform to it. Rather than being abstract I pointed to a specific example involving the South London & Maudsley NHS Trust, my local Trust and one Mr Naess has been officially involved with for some time.

Mr Naess responded in the regal ' We' You should be able to pick up the gist of the exchange and problem here.


Jonathan,

With respect, you have long been involved with SLAM , you are a Research Associate at the Institute of Psychiatry and you are professionally involved with the Institute/SLAM's Professor Graham Thornicroft an expert in 'stigma and discrimination' so the problem with your' we ' is that you do not appear to be independent enough from the establishment, as Stonewall orginally was, to effectively challenge it when the discrimination and/or inequality arises from its actions.

Off ward, SLAM makes no effort to ensure the basic financial security of service users who do not conveniently fit into its officially favoured recovery model .

( There is no MH specific benefits advice or support in certain boroughs within the SLAM catchment area)

For those who can recover SLAM funds training and employment projects and even plans 'recovery' orientated art exhibitions with initiatives like yours ( Stand to Reason is planning to partner a recovery arts event with SLAM) so it isnt as if the institution lacks the money to provide equality of service , it simply restricts its concerns about financial security and its relationship with the mental health and well-being of its service users to the world of work and thereby makes a conscious decision to really stigmatise and discriminate.

Stonewall did not just campaign on behalf of employed gay people Jonathan!

As for feedback, this is not feedback, it is criticism , as to date, with Stand to Reason you have simply replicated the top down decision making of institutions like SLAM as in addition to trying to sidestep the discrimination and inequality of service perpetuated by SLAM because your project enjoys some type of favoured status there is no participatory capacity designed in to the Stand to Reason website to allow ordinary service users to engage in anything but private e-mail exchange with you or talk to or contact each other ( on the site ) to discuss the aims and objectives you have set out on their behalf.

I'm sorry but you appear to have simply rotated the Stand to Reason iniative around yourself and attempted to re-create the work environment and meetings culture you are familiar with in the city to ensure you remain within your comfort zone : power breakfasts, evening events and round table meetings completely ignoring the fact that the internet is a participatory not top down medium and that very many MH service users are not as mobile, confident enough around other people or even as able to get up in the morning as you are. Many also find the meetings culture toxic.

How do you relate to them Jonathan?

Regards

Des Curley

My message bounced back. Mr Naess is broadcasting but not receiving. Whats new?

Labels:

16 Comments:

At 1:25 pm, Blogger mandy lifeboats appeal said...

I am afraid Jonathan is one in a long line of 'service user experts' who are either naieve enough to think they speak on behalf of everyone else or who have carved out a nice little niche for themselves and intend to hold on to their new territory.

I have yet to meet or hear of service users (ex or otherwise) in high places who haven't sold out.

Would be great to come across one that hasn't.

 
At 1:51 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this guy probably sold in.

 
At 4:58 pm, Anonymous Frank said...

He'll probably regret the Stonewall comparison. Can see why the Guardian bought into but it was not a smart remark
....

 
At 12:46 am, Anonymous Ray said...

How very sad this is - I just can't believe the bile I've just read.

Jonathan appears to being condemned by you simply because his organisation does not immediately extend beyond the workplace. Has none of you ever thought that should MH be more socially acceptable in the workplace, the workplace itself might be a more conducive environment for all/even more people with MH issues - ie not only to those with MH issues currently in employment but for those who can't hold down jobs because of the 'institutional' discrimination that undoubtedly exists in the workplace.

No, of course Stonewall did not campaign for the rights of employed gay people but you are choosing to interpret the Stonewall comparison in a very one-dimensional way.

It is ridiculous to conclude that just because Stand to Reason does not explicitly cover MH users not in the workforce that there is a conscious attempt to exclude such people from the benefits that greater social awareness of MH problems in the workforce will hopefully bring.

The impact that Stonewall had - and hence the comparison - was that when it 'outed' otherwise stereotypical successful heterosexual males in high profile political or media positions as being homosexual it made homosexuality – not just those homosexual men - more acceptable to society as a whole and so improving the social acceptance of ALL homosexuals.

If Stand to Reason can highlight (or 'out') instances of individuals with MH issues in the workforce who are otherwise seen as a stereotypical 'success', and make those MH issues more socially acceptable then I do not see the Stonewall analogy as being false or vexatious.

If anything there is an underlying class resentment issue simmering here. Just because Jonathan went to Oxford, worked in the City etc there seems to be an assumption that motives must be viewed with mistrust - a blinkered attitude itself which is often a breeding ground for the discrimination (sexual, racial or mental) that I think everyone on here is trying to fight against.

This guy is doing what he knows best in order to fight for a cause he believes in (let us not forget he is a MH sufferer too who has twice been sectioned) and just because he's managed to get more of a soap box (or dare I say achieved more) than any of us on this blog - something which I think grates Des more than anything - his good motivations are being cynically twisted.

Very sad indeed.

 
At 3:02 pm, Blogger Justice for S&B NHS Garden Centre Workers said...

Ray,

Thanks for your input but as Jonathan hasnt bothered to update his website or make any kind of meaningful attempt to communicate with the majority of MH service users or people with MH issues he told the Guardian and sought charitable status to represent, I think his and your approach is a lot more questionable than mine and yes, since you mentioned it there is a 'class' issue here as it seems well placed city financiers like Jonathan can get immediate access to Trust CEO's to work in partnership on publicly funded projects whilst ordinary service users - remember thats the kind of service user Jonathan projected himself as in his Guardian article - are ignored as Trust's will only work with people who agree with them or they can control.

If you want something to do Ray, why not check out what actually happened to the Surrey & Borders Garden centre workers because another fact that springs to mind here is that you have completely ignored their lot in a blog about them to heroicly defend the director of a city bank who, for all his crap about employment rights, hasnt bothered to defend them either.

Spot the pattern?.......

Oh and whats all this ' You cant stop a service user in a suit ' nonsense ?

Do you wear a suit Ray? Are you unstoppable?

Sad? You dont know the meaning of the word .

 
At 8:55 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've just looked at the Stand to Reason site and its effectively uncontactable in any transparent way. How do talk to the people behind the charity?

In secret? Why cant people people communicate the way they are doing here?

You are critical of this site. Fine , you've been allowed to put your case .

Lets look at the Stand to Reason website now, it still hasnt been updated , there is no news and events from the Spring are still being advertised. It seems the site had outlived its purpose as soon as the organisation behind it got charitable status.

Read into that what you will but lets look at the information on the website.

"Stand to Reason will be research-led and will measure the impact of its interventions in tackling discrimination and stigma in the following broad areas:

* Business and employment;
* Politics;
* Culture and Media;
* Education;
* Health."

What interventions?

Is anyone outside this organisation and the Institute of Psychiatry going to be told?

Why the secrecy?

Why the elitist top down approach from behind a dormant and non interactive website?

Are these questions beyond the pale too?

 
At 4:34 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting that Ray, whomever he or she is is defending Mr Naez. Does the man not have the bollocks to stand up for himself?

and don't give me this he is a victim shit. Anyone making money (and not just pocket money) out of others misery is not a victim!!!! I would like to know how much he is earning? What sort of charity dosh he has managed to gain and how he got it? This information should be transparent. Because money that should be going to care for the mentally ill is going anywhere but there.

And yes I am angry but at least I have the guts to say who I really am and write what I think in my own name. Pity there aren't more like me. Screwed up as I may be I am honest and will remain so.

Mandy Lawrence

 
At 5:55 pm, Anonymous des said...

The money aspect is a good point, how much of his own money has Jonathan ploughed into his Stand to Reason charity?

I mean, how much does having a few power breakfasts with smug city types he already has power breakfasts with fucking cost?

lets do a power breakfast Mand, egg on toast , marmite soldiers and a cuppa each at yours, whats that,about two quid?

And we could say we are the MH equivalents of Martin Luther King and Emily Pankhurst .

Nah bollocks if Jonathan Naess is Peter Thatchell I'm gonna be Optimus Prime and you can be Champion the Wonder Horse.

 
At 2:47 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like Mr Naez to answer questions about why he has aimed his 'charitable' works at employed or employing the mentally ill?

Why...do I ask this? Well aren't there enough big charities already on to this?

The focus of charity work seems to be around employing the mentally ill.

does Mr Naez intend to do research on flexible working? As in other than mainstreaming? Has he put 'earnings disregards and appropriate staged development' in his strategic plan? How does his work incorporate the varying levels of capacity that each individual has?

does he have a macro and micro view on the impact of trying to, as well as, employing people with mental illness?

Or is he coming from an equality angle? Which might sound fine but as a manic depressive myself, I know that I am more stable at some times than others. And I did work for 20 years so I do know what I am talking about.

Sexuality has nothing at all to do with my concerns. They are about mental health and the lack of care and empathy that is being shown in arenas where people are speaking on behalf of many others without first speaking to those they claim to represent.

Does Mr Naez consult regularly with service users and if so how many? Is there evidence of the consultations and what was actually said? Or has that been shredded in line with most service user feedback that does not tow a party line?

These questions are important and if someone is acting responsible or taking responsibility for other people then it needs to be clear how they are doing that and open to public viewing on a regular basis.

And I doubt I will be seen as Emily Pankhurst. I will be that nasty woman who keeps asking questions. Naughty Naughty me!!!

Mandy Lawrence
More than willing to have open communications with Mr Naez or anyone acting on his behalf.

 
At 11:07 am, Blogger petetow said...

There will always be some workplace discrimination and certain views on mental issues especially ones that can not be attributed to a specific cause like depression, at a place I know of that produces homebase furniture there are a couple of people who spend a fair bit time off work through depression and I know that others kind of resent it and see it as more of a skive than an illness.

 
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At 7:40 pm, Blogger N19queen said...

I'd like an update of this situation, please, as I'm a service user and have an opportunity to meet Jonathan himself.

Regards

N19queen

 
At 7:51 pm, Blogger N19queen said...

Update please, have a chance to meet the man in question

 
At 7:53 pm, Blogger N19queen said...

PS, All the best to all.

 
At 7:54 pm, Blogger N19queen said...

pps. Sorry, for multiple comments, am new to blogger

 
At 9:10 pm, Blogger Admin said...

Hi,

I'm afraid I cant provide much of an update on this post. Jonathan Naess's charity ' Stand to Reason' is still operating but it is not clear what it is doing , a persistent problem, and I recently heard from a city worker who had met Jonathan at her place of work after he had visited to explain Stand to Reason's aims and objectives that the charity had not responded to her follow up enquiry on how she could donate money to the organisation and she wasnt very impressed that a campaigning charity had no time to reply to donors.

Around the time of the orginal post Mr Naess and Stand to Reason got a fair amount of free publicity from the Guardian through connections he or his SLAM or Institute of Psychiatry colleagues had with NIMHE and its PR/publicity network. There is nothing grassroots about this network so Mr Naess's claim that his charity was launching a national campaign on behalf of other service users was a bit rich given the fact that he had no real connection to other service users and the fact that Stand to Reason hadnt even got registered charity status at the time of the first Guardian article.

These werent oversights, they simply werent considered necessary so to reflect on the situation for a moment, the Justice for the Surrey and Borders Garden Centre Workers site was camapigning to get payments to disabled workers reinstated as the people who had advised cutting them, national advisors to NIMHE, were pushing Mr Naess's organisation and another charity controlled body called the National Service User Network , funded to the tune of £750,00 ,as national bodies representing the pressing interests of service users.

Two years on 99% of service users have still not heard of these groups , Stand to Reason is not even bothering with user donations because it has money, its main concern is influence but its a priviledged disconnected influence that refuses to look at the needs of service users in localties because the founders of both these groups belong to or are too closely connected with service providers .

Over the same period users have seen South London's emergency clinic closed - at the Trust jonathan works for - and respite care and other services ' modernised' away to suit plans laid down by NIMHE which dogmatically believes work in and of itself is the best treatment and cure for mental illness.

At the time of Stand to Reason's launch a senior partner in city firm Swiss Re 'snapped ' under stress of work and almost beat his young baby daughter to death. A survey of that time also reported how lawyers and finance workers were leaving the city in droves because it was such a toxic place to work. Mr Naess completely ignored this mental health aspect of his immediate work environment , he is a city banker, although to be fair he does now seem to be pushing this angle over the glass ceiling aim as an article of a few months back explained how he and his organisation were now addressing workplace stress.

One has to ask how it was possible for Mr Naess to get through not one but two Guardian issues at the time talking about the city culture and mental health without mentioning workplace stress . The answer was the interviews were just about challenging employers when the reality of mental health and work just isnt that simplistic.

Lastly , of course people with MH issues require access to employment and quality professional training and for sure employer discrimination needs to be addressed as well, that's never been questioned .What was questioned here was how ' national campaigning ' groups have been emerging from NIMHE sources with a really blinkered view of the problems faced by the very people they are funded to represent. One of the biggest problems people with MH issues face is that for years MH services have deteriorated right across the board . This doesnt help people keep their work or personal lives together and to pretend employer attitudes are the key to resolving this problem isnt simply wishful thinking its reckless.

Des

 

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