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Crippen hears from a mental health system survivor about 'safe and well' checks / 9 April 2010

It's not unexpected that people who experience severe mental distress generally find night times the worst time to be alone. This is compounded by mental health trusts not being required to have any more than a tick box quota of staff available at night. In fact, most don't bother providing any real service during this time other than fielding a token Crisis Team often consisting of only two people.

I talked to a survivor who attended a recent workshop regarding mental health Crisis Teams. She was told that team workers see themselves as delivering a home treatment service - the teams are in fact called 'Crisis and Home Treatment Teams'. This involves delivering drugs to people at home in order to keep patients out of hospital and to allegedly save money in terms of expensive admissions.

Whilst they are out on these so-called 'drug runs' there is usually no-one else available at their base to answer phone calls and respond to requests for assistance. So one would assume that the trusts, needing someone to cover this out-of-hours service, would turn to an experienced private agency or mental health charity in order to check that any phone call, for example, is met with an appropriate response. WRONG!

In fact mental health trusts often ask the police to carry out a 'Safe and Well' check on any patient that they are unable to visit themselves. Unfortunately the police have little or no training in mental health issues, and seem to regard this duty as a bit of a nuisance, to put it mildly. In the experience of our survivor a lot of police officers are extremely prejudiced and will often view anyone presenting with mental distress as a potential axe wielding killer. Forget the loveable village copper image. The description of one such response team fitted more the heavy booted descendants of the notorious Special Patrol Group (SPG).

Therefore, if the police go to a house and can't get a response, often because the person is too scared to open the door, they have been known to break it down. Even if they don't have to break their way into a home, they often forcibly drag people out, usually handcuffed (more them once this has happened to our survivor when she's only been wearing a night dress - no slippers even!), before being taken to a police station to be locked overnight in a cell; this is their definition of a  Place of Safety! As you can imagine, for people who are already in an extremely distressed and often confused state it is a terrifying experience to also be treated like a criminal in this way.

It was estimated that in 2006 around 250 people killed themselves within 48 hours of being detained in this way. Are we surprised?!
 

Keywords: disability professionals,discrimination,medication,mental health,psychosis,survivor movement,young disabled people,

Comments

Nicola Jackson

/
28 May 2010

Hi,

I am initiating my own campaign to get government legislation to ensure that it is compulsory that police are trained in mental health.

If any of you use facebook or are interested in finding out more about this campaign then please join the facebook group which I have created: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/group.php?gid=122371647795989&ref=ts

Thanks

Nicola x

Crippen

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20 May 2010

Have had quite a few emails in response as well so could well revisit this subject ... watch this space!

Anon

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7 May 2010

I have recently been diagnosed with bi-polar. I've had it for 31 years un treated... and spent my life in and out of prison for assaults on police, as when I've been on a high I am treated as if I were a drug addict and abusing drugs... when in fact I am in a psychosis and am in need of treatment. When police had attended me it turned into a stand off with me saying I'm out don't touch me to the use of pepper spray and restraints... thanks Sussex Police..... their answer is ignore the patient in the cell till an appropriate adult can be raise on your behalf... I was labelled a thug, when in fact I was very ill and required help... now I am medicated I've not offended in over 3 years....... so to all the old bill who enjoy arresting me when I was unwell..... I hope your proud to be part of the queens best!!!!!!!!!!

Maria

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10 April 2010

Australian example - but friend of mine dragged away by police in front of her then 3yo daughter. Hands cuffed behind her back, shoved in back of police divvie van etc (and she says she was *not* being aggressive, and would have got into the van voluntarily if asked - she thinks her rep as an activist preceded her). By far the most disturbing part of the story, tho - friend was a single mother, her daughter left at home alone. 3yo.

pink pjs

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9 April 2010

Within a week of being issued with tasers our local police officers used one for the first time, during a nightime call to a man diagnosed with schizophrenia :(

pink pjs

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9 April 2010

Thank you so much for publicising this issue Dave xxxx

Most people are too scared to put in complaints too and as there are no independent witnesses, they are not usually successful.

This happened to me a year ago, I was the middle aged woman in a pink nightie dragged out of my house in handcuffs no underwear, no shoes, the two young officers refused to leave my house even though I pointed out to them that under mental health law they had no right to be there without a social worker, so, they decided to charge me with assault, this charge was dropped, but I still had to have a mug shot and fingerprints. They literally dragged me around then assaulted me in the cell, which had no camera, I was covered in bruises to my arms, chest, legs and face with a cut lip. A female officer assigned to watch me in the cell kept calling me 'genius' and when I asked for a drink told me that she couldn't guarantee she wouldn't spit in it. Whe the shift changed in the morning an older duty sergeant who I have met before, opened the cell door, looked at me then said 'what on earth has happened to you?'he got me a cup of tea and arranged for a female officer from a different station to take me home. The complaint I made with photos, was investigated by west midlands police for 9 months and was referred to CPS. They still haven't written to me but I phoned them and was told they had not upheld the complaint - no witnesses.

Someone else I know who has Aspergers and experiences severe depression, was in a cell cuffed behind his back then his ankles were cuffed and attached to handcuffs, he was then subjected to many forms of abuse and was repeated called Asparagus. There are many storied like this, it happens all the time :(

Judie McConway

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9 April 2010

I worked in mental health for 20 years as a Manager of a Social Services Day Centre, and can verify all of the above. It was deemed necessary that when having to section someone (who was threatening to harm themselves) that as well as an ambulance with attendant staff, a social worker and at times a doctor, that police should also be present, their fear of mental health being so great, that at times big burly uniformed coppers would either be aggressive, or tell me they were frightened to get in an ambulance with a middle aged woman!! They didn't have a clue!! and this was to take a patient to hospital, goodness only knows how they would behave themselves, at night, without a multitude of professionals around them!

Arty Farty

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9 April 2010

Just had another thought. You don't think that this is some form of aversion therapy do you?!

Arty Farty

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9 April 2010

Happened to a friend of mine who'd also heard about this treatment from her contacts so I know this is wide spread practice. Just what you need eh ... feeling vulnerable so we'll send in the jackboots and drag you off to the cells for the night. That'll teach you to have mental health issues!