So, because my last few mental health crises resulted in contact with the Police, and that contact was mostly negative; my Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) has been speaking with Inspector Baker (who I’ve previously worked with in training Northumbria Police’s new recruits). They thought it might be a good idea for me to meet with an Officer from my locality. Initially, the intention was because one officer detained me under the Mental Capacity Act (2005) and I voiced that whilst I’d heard of the Act, I wasn’t aware that it gave Police any power. You see, I’ve had the Act used on me a couple of times, but it’s always been by either Paramedics or staff in a medical Hospital. So, my CPN’s thinking was to have the Act explained to me and for us (my CPN, myself and the Officer) to discuss a ‘plan’ in case there was to ever be another instance where the Police became involved in a mental health crisis with me.
Initially, I was actually a little bit horrified at the idea because there’d been a similar meeting in 2012 before I went into Cygnet and so I worried that the fact professionals felt another meeting appropriate, meant that I really was going backwards. Things really were going back to the beginning. My CPN reassured me that the meeting was purely for a ‘what if’ situation and not – as the previous meeting had been – a necessity because such situations were inevitable.
After the reassurance kicked in, I became supportive of the idea. Passionate, even, that it should happen! I began to look at it in two ways; the first was that it’d be a chance to ‘clear my name’ after the allegation that I’m the ‘ringleader’ of a promotional self-harm group in my area. I discussed this in a previous post but basically, I feel insulted that the Police could believe this after my years of hard work trying to support others, publicize the negative consequences of self-harm, and encourage people to find safe and healthy coping strategies. The second way I could see the meeting in a positive light was that it’d provide me with the opportunity to advise the Police on what they should and shouldn’t be doing – granted that these things might be different to everyone and to different circumstances – for me in a mental health crisis. In the past, I looked on this skeptically and thought ‘what if we go through all of this and they still get it wrong.’ But I’ve come a long way since then and I feel as though it’s worth making the effort for the possibility that it could increase the chances of bettering their attitude/response. Not just for me, for others as well; protecting others from going through what I have, is always a huge motivator for me to go that extra mile to do whatever I can to prevent that from happening. When the Officer recently dismissed the training Inspector Baker and Claire Andre and I have facilitated for Northumbria Police new recruits as ‘not making a difference’ I inevitably felt hopeless. I thought that what would be the chances of a new recruit standing up to a more senior Officer and saying, ‘this isn’t how we were trained?’ This Officer was right in saying that ‘one day of training doesn’t make Police mental health professionals’ but I countered this with that the aim of the training is to help Police gain a better understanding and learn how to be kind, caring, and respectful with those in a mental health crisis.
In the past, I used the negative, demeaning, patronizing, stigmatized responses of professionals (Police, A&E Doctors and Nurses, psychiatric staff, Paramedics etc.) as motivation for my self-harm and suicide attempts. I believed them when they said I was wasting their time, that I was undeserving of it, and sometimes, I even questioned whether I was poorly – maybe I did just like attention?! That I was in such a vulnerable place when these comments were being made meant that I couldn’t deflect them as easily as I might have had I been in a better place mentally. And herein lies the biggest danger in such professionals having these responses; they can motivate someone to feel even more suicidal or even more determined to self-harm. Another danger is that it impacts on the person’s view of the organizations that professional belongs to. I was recently reassured that just because one officer had been a certain way, it didn’t mean the entirety of the Force had that view on mental health. The thing that people don’t understand is though, that person is in that situation representing that organization. What they do – rightly or wrongly – reflects on that organization. You know, what I began collaborating with Northumbria Police, I became so cautious of what I was putting on my Twitter account; I found the balance between being myself but also ensuring I didn’t give the force a bad name. And since beginning my voluntary work with Barnardos, I’ve made my Facebook account private so that I have at least one social media channel where I can truly by myself and not feel I have edit anything out. You see, I have taken responsibility for how my actions can reflect on the organizations I work with, support, and promote; so why can’t those actually under their employment?!
But as the blog post title says; in mental health, it really is hit or miss. I’ve had some phenomenally supportive professionals on my mental health journey. There was once a Paramedic who sat down on the ground with me and spent half an hour convincing me that my hallucinations weren’t real and that actually, I didn’t deserve to die. There was a Nurse in A&E who was on the ball with getting all of my medications prescribed. There was a Psychiatrist who held my hand when I cried. I once had a Named Nurse in a psychiatric hospital who became a second Mum. Then there was the Police Officer… She noticed me staring at a ‘seemingly’ blank space beneath a plastic chair in the room we were in and after telling her I was confident that there was a rabbit beneath it, she picked the chair up, stamped on the empty space and the rabbit left. From doing that, I complied with everything; even when I was sectioned, and she had to take me to a psychiatric ward! Her little act of stamping on thin air had a huge impact on me.
This is just evidence of the hit and miss I talk about. I think that it comes from the stigma of mental health. Some people hold it and some people don’t. Sometimes it’s just that simple. I mean, it’s like what that one Officer said to me: ‘I’m quite ignorant to all the mental health stuff.’ There are people – because I shouldn’t only be talking about ‘professionals’ – who are oblivious, naïve, uneducated and ignorant to all things mental health. Then there are people who are compassionate, empathetic, kind, caring, understanding, and respectful of all thing’s mental health. In the same way that hurtful comments can influence a decision to end your life, a small bit of effort can encourage someone to carry on living.