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And Yet So Much To Say

Last night, terror encroached on childhood. 

Last night, evil robbed innocence. 

Last night, cowardice struck the defenceless. 

Those watching the early report of events in Manchester would no doubt have hoped that this was a small scale technical problem or an inconsequential structural failure at the Arena but as time went by, the images of ambulances racing to the scene, the sight of armed officers and then the arrival of the Bomb Squad began to confirm the worst fears. 

Confirmation was a while coming but when it came, via a briefing from Ian Hopkins, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, hearts sank and words seemed impossible to find. 

The images being broadcast – the brief video clips from inside – began to take on a new context. Now we knew what that noise was. Now we know why those people were running and screaming.

It is perhaps unfair to draw any comparisons between any terrorist atrocity. In any and all of them, innocent people have lost their lives terribly and for no good reason – but this one is different.

Once again innocent people have lost their lives. Once again the method was indiscriminate and appalling but the individual behind it has not just targeted joy – they have targeted our children. 

This has happened in other countries for sure and it is not the first time in the U.K. that children have been the victims but to walk in to a venue full of happiness and innocent young lives and do this…. deliberately …. is simply incalculable.

Against this backdrop of misery and the very worst of humankind we saw the best. The emergency services rushing to the scene, the police, ambulances, fire service, bomb squad. We knew that hospitals across Manchester were going to be inundated with young people with terrible injuries and the staff would do whatever magic they could to save life. The staff at the Arena; the taxi drivers who offered lifts; the hotels who opened doors and rooms; gig goers who rallied to help and support one another and a local community who sent out messages and displays of love and kindness to those who had visited their city. 

The usual press circus has arrived and whilst there is huge public interest in this terrible event we have seen journalists hounding desperately worried families and even interviewing young children and making them re-tell events to cameras without any apparent thought for their long term wellbeing. 

Claims of responsibility have been made but we don’t care who you were. We don’t care what you believed. We know that you were worthless and we know you were wrong. That’s all we ever need to know about you. 

The press would do well to ignore you completely and focus solely on the lives that do matter – those taken away at a time when they should have been on an all time high.

It is actually very easy and hugely upsetting to consider the happiness in that place moments before this happened. 

And now there is this – a nation struck again by something completely against human nature and without rational explanation. 

At times like this it is often hard to find words to comment on anything – but there is so much to say.

To those injured and killed – we are so very sorry.

To those involved and who witnessed events – we feel for you.

To the families – we can offer little but distant love but a lot of it.

To the emergency services and first responders – thank you.

To the people and city of Manchester – we stand with you. 

To Ariana Grande – an artist whose show was so mercilessly targeted – this was not your fault. You brought joy and music to these poor people before this happened.

Above all else – to our children – we love you. 

The Problem With Elephants

Let me start by saying that I have no problem with actual elephants. They are intelligent and amazing creatures who need protecting wherever they live. I can assure you that no elephants have been or will be harmed in the writing of this blog.
My problem is with metaphorical elephants. White ones; ones which have a habit of being “in the room”; ones who never forget and the ones you have to eat one bite at a time. Read More…

The Bleedin’ Obvious

I’m sure you will be aware by now that I am in the early stages of a research degree. Though this may change or become more refined – the question I am seeking to answer is

“Are the police the right agency to be dealing with mental health incidents?”

I have spent the last few months reading. By which I mean reading a lot. I have read historical documents on the role of the police; books on mental health policy in the U.K.;studies in police interactions with people with mental illness from across the world; evaluations of Crisis Intervention Teams and Triage schemes; writings on a new concept called Law Enforcement and Public Health; reports on the implications of using Taser on people with mental illness; medical reports on the use and effects of restraint as well as papers on various elements of psychiatry and certain mental disorders.

Amongst other things. Read More…

Where There’s Light – There’s Hope

Over the last couple of years I have noticed a conversation occurring at work which, once upon a decade ago, would have been practically unheard of.

The “if I could leave – I would” discussion has now become relatively commonplace and is particularly noticeable amongst colleagues in mid ranking roles or with over ten years service.

It has even spread to Twitter and I found myself having such a conversation with a colleague just the other night. He described feeling out of place, like he couldn’t just get on with his job anymore. He described a huge amount of emotional turmoil but then said he felt like it was just him.

It isn’t. He is far from alone.

Read More…

Back To School – Part 3 

This weekend saw me return to Canterbury for the second official study weekend of my two year course. The main difference this time is that I have actually done something towards achieving the end goal.

That something has largely consisted of reading and highlighting followed by extended periods of reading and highlighting. The purpose of this is to work toward a literature review which explores my chosen subject area and highlights gaps which need answers.

As I am doing an MSc by Research I can chose my own subject area to explore. That’s why I opted for this course. I didn’t want to be restricted to modules and covering things I wasn’t interested in.

I was originally going to look at wellbeing within the police service but when I stared reading up on it a few months back I very quickly discovered it was data heavy and quite dry. As passionate as I am about supporting colleagues I felt that there was no way I could sustain such an interest for two years if I was already struggling after two weeks. It was time to think again.

Over the course of the following couple of days I was at work and became engaged in a series of lengthy and animated conversations about policing and its role in mental health crises. It dawned on me that, actually, this is a subject I already know something about and it is probably the one area of work which I am most passionate about. In terms of a research subject, I would be a fool to look elsewhere.

It is then a question of finding out what needs to be asked and reading to see if it has already been answered. If it has – is it right? If it hasn’t – it’s a gap.

And so I got my hands on as many academic papers and reports as I could on the subjects of police, mental health crises, use of Section 136, street triage, violence, deinstitutionalisation, partnership working between agencies involved in MH and anything which fell out of those reports.

Having poured over them and analysed them I was left with a lot of questions. A lot of questions. But they all kept coming back to one thing – why are the police so heavily involved in the first place? Leading from that is the question – and how do service users feel about police being involved so heavily in what is ultimately a health matter? In all the research – no one has asked them directly.

From this I developed the question “why the police?” and I was quite happy with it.

Then I came to Canterbury for the weekend.

On the evening of Friday night I had a long, lovely and very challenging conversation with a very knowledgable member of university staff. We spent a lot of that conversation asking each other “why?” about a lot of things.

I loved the entire thing but at times I was right out of my comfort zone and thinking hard. Which was good. All good. Until it was pointed out to me that the answer to my question “why the police?” is probably already known.

This sent me into a bit of a mental tailspin. I’ve been reading for ages. I have even used a highlighter! I had written a thematic plan of how the literature review might look and the areas I wanted to cover. Was this all to waste and if so – what the hell was I doing at university in the first place?

I stress that this was down to my own insecurities and hang-ups and the conversation I had with my new found friend was nothing but positive, constructive and enjoyable. I’m just not used to being challenged like that. In some respects it was awesome – in others I thought I might be drowning.

And so I retired to my hotel thinking “I can’t do this.” I am such a catastrophiser.

I enjoyed the following days lectures and picked up some new tricks, tactics and reading material but was really waiting for my tutorial at lunchtime. I needed to close this down.

When I met with Emma (Williams) I said how I felt. I can be direct like that – sometimes too much. I told Emma how much I had read, what I had read and how I had linked things together. I showed her my written plan and I swear I saw her eyes light up in delight. Having had no prior training or experience in any of this I was pleased to be reassured that I was, albeit instinctively, doing exactly the right thing.

Then we came to the issue of whether I could carry on with it as a subject given that the answer to my original question was probably already known. (The answer to “why the police?” by the way is “because no one else can / will / is set up to.”)

This was one of those moments when you are always pleased to speak to someone who is much better at something than you are. Within twenty seconds Emma had spun it and we had rephrased the question.

Without losing any of the work already done and by using my findings in exactly the same way it can be used to ask something which isn’t really covered in the literature to date.

Most of it – particularly more recent stuff – particulary around triage – simply takes for granted that the police have a role (an ever expanding role) in dealing with mental health issues and that things should be rolled out further.

There is a fundamental issue with this assumption which has not been addressed.

I am therefore very pleased to announce that the provisional working title of my research will be:

Are the police the right people to be dealing with mental health incidents?

Thank you to Emma for the reassurance and support and thank you to my new friend (you know who you are) for such a challenging, enjoyable and thought provoking conversation. 

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