I am working on a report examining how services have responded to a young person’s suicide attempt. It is too close to home.
A friend of mine died last week in similar circumstances and when I read about the health professionals dismissing the young person’s most recent attempt, I feel furious beyond measure. How dare they be complacent about a young person potentially ending their life? Do they not know the devastation suicide can cause?
I know I’m reacting emotionally, but I cannot, in all conscience, do nothing about it so I contact the worker and check whether this situation has been challenged. Fortunately the worker is fantastic and has already questioned the health professionals’ version of events and has done all she can to promote the young person’s safety.
It’s good to write a report where I have nothing but praise for the sensitive and highly supportive way the social worker has managed this case. Case reviews and audits so frequently focus on blame. It was really refreshing, a few weeks ago, when Eileen Munro was talking about the Daniel Pelka case and said that she couldn’t claim she would have done better. I certainly feel that about this situation, and I’m moved to think that relationship based social work practice is still supporting the most vulnerable people.
I go to the newsagent at lunchtime. I browse the newspapers and see The Sun’s headline about how many people are killed by individuals with mental health problems. Even by just reading the rest of the article you can tell how distorted the headline is as the figures they quote on the front page are actually for 10 years not one year, and in fact later analysis shows that even these figures are greatly exaggerated.
My fury returns. How can they stigmatise vulnerable people in this way? Would it be acceptable to treat patients with cancer in such a disgraceful and prejudicial manner? Why do they think they can do this to people suffering from illnesses of the mind?
Today I’m at a meeting where I’m introduced to the group of social work students I will be teaching next year. I work as a lecturer part time in addition to my social services job.
Every year my husband says ‘think of our work life/balance. Do you really need this extra work?’ But every year I sign up for another group. The reason is that teaching students reminds me what social work is about. It helps me reflect, and brings me back to the values core to our profession. I meet so many good people, who have so much to give the profession; it’s a privilege to be part of their training and education.
Having said that, the group seems much larger than normal. That means more marking. Maybe this year my husband is right. However, somehow I still feel really excited and think it is going to be worth it.
A petition from change.org arrives in my inbox. People are objecting to The Sun’s article on Monday. I am encouraged that there is public opposition to the paper on this issue. I remember the beautiful social media response to the recent scandal of Asda and Tesco selling Halloween costumes portraying strait jackets, blood, and axes of people they termed ‘mental patients’. Ordinary people with mental health difficulties flooded Twitter with photos of themselves with some great captions:
‘Here I am in my mental health costume; it’s a cardigan’.
‘I have bi-polar disorder. Here I am chatting to my friends; no axe or blood in sight.’
I sign the petition with pride and hope it forces the Sun to apologise for their prejudicial and irresponsible journalism. A sizeable donation to a mental health charity would be good too.
The author is an anonymous social worker