Friday, 31 July 2009

Winging it.


It is not often that I find myself stuck in a situation where there is apparently no resolution. I found myself in such a situation on Sunday.

A bit of history, I was called two weeks ago to an establishment that assists people who have conditions that require some counselling in order for themselves to determine their route in life. I attended the establishment after one of their residents made a really good effort of hanging himself. He pulled the cord from the rear of his television and somehow using the window nearly completed the job. Fortunately staff intervened and his attempt was foiled.
He was assessed by the duty crisis team and once the effects of alcohol had worn off they deemed his demeanour to not be one of someone likely to harm himself.
His background, well his father committed suicide approximately two years ago once the onset of his condition started taking over his life. My subject, let’s call him X is twenty something years old and has also been diagnosed with the condition. His sister also has the condition but she has come to terms with it.
His condition is Huntington’s disease. I had heard of it previously but didn’t know what it was. X has seen his father deteriorate and take his own life. He knows the symptoms and the end result. He doesn’t want to end up like his dad but due to the hereditary nature of the disease he IS going to.
Anyway, Sunday, he receives a family visit which doesn’t go well. Following that he expresses his desire to end his life again and wants to go out. Staff have seen a pattern emerging in his behaviour. He talks about positive and negative things whilst sober, once he has had a drink he doesn’t talk but tries to take his own life. He has admitted that it is only after he has been drinking the suicide attempts start and last Sunday he wanted to go drinking. The staff don’t have the powers necessary to detain him but understandably they are doing everything they can not to let him go out. The situation escalates and the verbal arguments become verbal threats from X. The duty manager left with no options and fearing for the safety of X and his staff calls the police. He states that he wants the male detained under S.136.
A sceptical Constableconfused arrives and after a quick background from staff goes to speak to X. He finds X sitting in a chair smoking, very calm, very collected and talking a lot of sense. Definitely not a 136 case. He tells me all about his problems in a calm, controlled and informed matter and that he is a voluntary patient and as such wants to leave. When asked what his intentions are he tells me he is going to get drunk and try to kill himself for the reasons outlined above. His reasoning can’t be faulted; he is in control of himself and provides what is really quite a good reason for ending his life. He apologises to staff and to me for wasting our time but once again expresses his desire to leave and get drunk. I have no reason to detain him but now have a duty of care. If I let him walk and he does the deed how much poo will I be in. I manage to speak on the telephone to one of the CPN’s who last saw him on Friday and they state he is in no way mentally disturbed, confused about which life choice to take certainly but not in need of mental health care. He is starting to become irate now and once again offers violence if he is not allowed to leave. I then lock him up on the tenuous grounds of preventing a breach of the peace. That way he won’t be drinking anyway.
The trip to custody follows with me justifying the grounds for the arrest in my head all the way. I relate the circumstances to the custody sergeant who looks at me with some strange looks before authorising detention for a “BOP”. He knows me and my methods so will no doubt ask me for a full update once the “prisoner” goes for processing. I subsequently provide the full background to him and the Inspector who has now turned up and acknowledge that my arrest is probably unlawful but what else could I do? The Inspector sums it up nicely by saying yes it is unlawful and he may get paid a couple of thousand if he pursues the matter but I can’t be criticised for my actions. My actions I perceived were entirely in the best interests of X.
The next problem, how do we get out of this mess? He is clearly not a matter for the courts but also can’t languish in a cell for too long. The “home” is no longer interested stating that they will have no network available until 9 a.m. the next morning to progress this. It is just after 6 p.m. now so they are no help. In effect they have washed their hands of him for the night. I visit the crisis team in Notgreatside County Hospital who state that they are aware of X and believe that he will one day kill himself but he is undecided at the moment. Great help. I ask them for assistance but they say there is nothing they can do. Tick Tock goes the custody clock.
My mobile rings and it is custody stating that the male has been on the intercom apologising for his actions and asking if he can go back. He states that he is now at what he perceived to be rock bottom and sees the home as a much better option. He is seen by the FME and she spends over an hour talking with him. At the end she recommends he be released once she has a stern word with the home. This is duly done and X gets changed from his safety gown back into his normal clothes.
He is refused charge for the BOP and I take him back. On the way he is a different character, he has taken a shine to the doctor and asks which practice she is with. He talks about remaining in Notgreatside and resuming his college studies which were interrupted several years ago.
I drop him back at the home and hand him over to staff, as he entered he turned and looked at me nodding before jokingly (I hope) says “SAME TIME NEXT WEEK”? I drive away wondering what the hell has happened during the last few hours. My conclusion was that there are supposedly partner agencies everywhere that are there to assist during incidents such as these but at 6 p.m. on a Sunday night there really isn’t anyone. I winged it, playing it by ear. I was backed up by Sgt’s and the Inspector and also the FME. Between us we resolved a situation that we really had no part in but were the first to get called.
How many similar situations do you find yourselves in? The first port of call for many people even though we shouldn’t be.

By the way, did you know it is not an offence to commit suicide but if you try and fail, it then becomes one. Apparently!

11 comments:

Dandelion said...

What I can't believe is how, if he's periodically threatening suicide and then changing his mind, he's not a) a danger to himself and b) in need of psychiatric care. The mental health agencies are the ones that would be in poo if he succeeds.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Sounds like you not only did the best you could under difficult circumstances but that you also managed to offer a form of help to this young man that he'd previously not had. Well done mate!
Huntingtons is a terrible disease, a previous neighbour of mine has inherited the condition...she's 40+ and still not symptomatic so there is some hope for your young man at his age.
Thanks for caring so much CC
Bendy Girl

Louise said...

Its so difficult. The support structure for these people is so wound up in red tape for what we can and can't do that people like this are bound to fall through the cracks eventually and become that call you don't want.

Because he is lucid, sober, intelligent and he's reasoning is sound we can't do anything.

You did what you could within your powers and duty of care but it doesn't make you feel any better as you know the cycle will more than likely continue.

Anonymous said...

...Unfortunately, this is just one more casualty of our so called "care in the community"
As an officer dealing with such a situation, all you can do is document it to death!!! In a court situation (should it have all gone belly up) It would be the Crisis team/mental health professionals carrying the proverbial can! Of course that doesn't help the poor sod in the uniform, with a conscience! but well done you!!!

taffu said...

I would say a BOP was not only your only option and the best one, but also legal. If he wasnt nicked, was there high chance he would commit acts of violence imminently? (IE to himself).

As for social - they can be a law onto themselves.
Whilst on the 999 calls one friday, at ten to five, i took a call from a social worker requesting we do a 136 on a male in his flat. When i pointed out we legally cant do it, and they should be helping him through their own assessment teams, the reply came back without hint of embarrisment that "it's the weekend". Needless to say, their request was refused.

As for attempt suicide, it makes sense. Its to make it easier to look after someone (ie nick them) if they are caught in the act and s136 doesnt apply...

Tom said...

I believe this is what lawyers and philosophers call a 'hard case.'

There is no real way to dispose of it, and given your circumstances, I salute your enginuity.

Until the creation of an offence of 'conspiracy to commit self-destruction' or 'intent to do myself in' which was not addressed by the legal draughtsmen of the Suicide Act, your hands were tied. Likewise, the partner agencies could not be contacted to participate in the crisis.

Constableconfused. No, but try Constableswitched-on as an alternative.

Anonymous said...

Poor guy. It is clearly rather a lot to cope with when one knows in advance, how ones life is likely to pan out, and the suffering one may endure. Not surprising either, that his family appear to bring him down enough to want to block it all out with booze, a mood depressant that just makes everything appear to be a lot worse than it actually is. Family can often be a source of pain rather than comfort, in a difficult situation. That in itself can lead to thoughts of just ending it all, to be free of the mental and emotional pain being experienced. As a sufferer of a serious and disabling Neurological illness myself, I can understand the despair of wanting to escape from suffering. But it is not the answer, nor the solution.

This story highlights the inadequacies in our NHS "care" system. When someone is in such a state of utter despair, the "care" from the NHS just is not there for people. Staff are detached, distant, clinical, cold and basically useless, except for prescribing drugs and writing reports and comments about the sufferer for their records. Fat load of use that is to the person in distress. When someone is in such a low mood that they feel like ending their life, what they NEED, is a good friend to give them a hug and to talk with them.

NHS "care" for people in such a state of distress, doesn't do TLC, hugs, or anything else that would raise the spirits of people in despair. And now the government are contemplating making assisted suicide legal. I can understand how seriously ill people would want to end their lives with dignity when they have suffered enough, BUT I do think that it would be a dangerous move to make assisted suicide legal. That could open the door to all sorts of abuses of power, from relatives after an inheritance, and from the state not wanting the financial burden of very sick people taking years to die.

I have always believed that God decides when it is our time to die, and how we will die. Suffering and adversity are character building, intended to push us to seek spiritual comfort. To end our allotted time too soon, without our full life experience, even if that is illness, is a mistake that hinders our own spiritual evolution and progress.

With all the scientific research into stem cell treatments, they may well find a cure, or effective treatment soon, for many of these horrific illnesses. Nature often has a cure, in the form of plants with healing properties. Modern medical care appears to have moved away from natural healing and treatments.

I hope the young man gets some proper TLC and support.

Anonymous said...

BOP was your only option. You did your best for him. I learnt long ago that the police service is all that is left when others stand aside.

Hogday said...

`Winging it` just about sums it up CC.c. Especially in our world, where you'll get a long queue of people ready to blame you if the `winging` goes bent, but when you look for the support before the event, it isn't there, in abundance. I certainly found that the compassionate frequently stand alone and although it never stopped my compassion, it certainly didn't help..

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Your blogs are always sensible and caring. but i wonder concerning the long term effects on yourself.
I wonder if those closest to YOU worry on your behalf. Many years in teaching had its effect on me. The only one who didn't notice I suspect was me.

Anonymous said...

WOW Hogday, you took the words right out of my mouth and said it for me! You are soooooo right. Spot on with such an accurate insight, on the way things really are in the real world.

The compassionate and caring ones amongst us DO often stand alone, like aliens from another planet, often misunderstood by the herd, and also often abused and taken advantage of, by the less caring so called "humans" on planet earth.

Grumpy Old Ken is spot on too.

I do have concern for you C.C, but I try to maintain faith in positive outcomes, and that YOU are okay, and will be even better in the near future. I know that you have been through as tough a time as myself, and it has damaged my health considerably. I really hope that has not happened to you.

I was reading on A Police Wife's blog, about how the job affected her husband, in that he was on occasions uncharacteristically grumpy. I realised that applied to myself, because of the stress and strain of difficult cases. I think my family do worry about me, but do not fully understand, nor make allowances.

I have noticed that you, CC, have gone silent, and that worries me, a bit, as to your well-being.
But I wonder if you have "winged it" off on holiday, somewhere nice perhaps?

Bluebird