As I am sitting in my hotel room "up north" I thought that I would write a blog around why I am up here. tomorrow I am helping with the "north learning event" for the CQC commissioners' (inspectors) around my experience with section 136 (s136). something, unfortunately I know a bit too much about.
section 136 is a section to a place of safety by the police is they feel someone is at risk (of hurting themselves or someone else). they cannot place this on a person if they are in their own house, and a "place of safety" can be either a hospital (usually a 136 suit) or the police station.
Unfortunately in the 12 years that I have been under the mental health teams in North Wales and East Sussex (and even north Devon when on holiday at one point) I've had too much contact with the police when I have been in crisis, and the response like with anything has been mixed, and even within forces it has been mixed.
There's two main areas to focus on, the practical stuff, and attitudes
The first point is that when I have had any contact with police in the last few years since I moved south I have been sectioned under a 136 without much conversation...yet whenever I have been in crisis elsewhere and the police have been involved they have given me the option to go and get assessed and help VOLUNTARY first (which I took) and therefore there was no reason to force me into a situation where I feel even more out of control as my freedom (even if its only overnight) is taken away from me by people who do not get enough training. I'm not blaming individual officers, or even areas, but its well known that the police do not get enough training. according various blogs and internet sites around 20% of all police work is to do with mental health, and yet they don't get the training that they feel, and I as a service user feels is required. more on that later. I don't know if Sussex police feel that s136 straight away and why they don't seem to offer to the person in crisis to be able to go for a voluntary assessment, or whether the fact that the notorious suicide spot "Beachy head" has been involved means that they take the line that they seem to do. I feel that it would better for all if being detained/arrested on a 136 is the last possible option!!!
Every single time I have been detained under a s136, the local 136 suit has been closed, and so I have been held in the cells. I will always say that the cells are the last place that someone who is in a metal health crisis should be held. were at a 136 suit the idea is while to keep you safe you should also be as comfortable as possible, where nothing can be further from the truth in a cell. I am a great believer in distraction to calm my own situation down, and I know many other people who have varying mental health issues where this is one of their tactics. how on earth can you distract yourself in a police cell, apart from annoying the custody officers by continually asking for cups of tea! there's no TV or comfortable place to wait for the relevant people to come unlike in a 136 suit. a police cell is just not appropriate as far as I am concerned.
I have often felt a criminal when I have been detained, both by my surroundings and by the way I am treated. I know that the whole reason I am stuck in the cell is apparently to keep me safe, an so they have to check I haven't got anything to harm myself, but I cannot see a reason why I should be left with nothing but a blanket (and I am lucky I know people who haven't even had that). it feels so degrading, unsafe, and vulnerable to be in that cell completely naked when you know that people are watching you constantly. I do have a history of being abused and being in a situation like that reminds me of my past, and likely to make me a lot more in distress and unsafe!!!!
As I am a self harmer, and often this has been part of the reason that I am detained by the police, it is obvious to me that most of them just do not understand. to be far most of the population don't understand why someone would deliberately hurt themselves. self harm in the most part is about coping and survival, and while there is a risk, its not often a huge life and death risk. to me it feels that the police (as well as many physical health services but that's for another blog) need more understanding around self harm, it is a major issue across the UK, but is also demonised as attention seeking and manipulative, something that riles many people. it seems that a small minority of people give everyone who self harms or has a personality disorder a bad name, but as with any group of people, we are blah who has a PD not the PD!
I guess people want to be treated as someone worth caring about, and treating as if they were human not a rabid animal!