Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Baby 'P' and Suicide

As the Baby 'P' case slips slowly from the headlines you may think it strange to raise it here linked to suicide but there is reason in my apparent madness.

Baby 'P' was a wee innocent baby whose life was snuffed out by his mother and her partner in an horrendous and obscene murder.  All must have been horrified at the pain and suffering inflicted on this little boy. 

How can there possibly be a link between a suicide victim and this innocent wee baby?

Much of the outrage, both public and political, felt at Baby P's death has moved from those directly responsible to those services  - police, NHS, social services - who knew of the family, who had suspicions but yet failed to save him. An inquiry has been held already, heads have rolled, and the government has parachuted in a new head of Haringey's Childrens Services.

In yesterday's mini-post I quoted two Liberal Democrats who were happy at the sacking of the head of Children's Services:

Councillor Robert Gorrie, leader of Haringey Liberal Democrat opposition, said: "This is the right decision. No one should be rewarded for failure in public service. .....  Those in top jobs in public service should be put on notice - there is no hiding place for incompetence and deceit for those charged with looking after the vulnerable children in our society."

Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, welcomed Shoesmith's departure. "I very much welcome her departure without a single penny. Hopefully it marks a break with the culture of secrecy, failure and deceit that failed Baby P."

The murder of one baby - however horrific - and the failure of the caring services, who were aware of the family, to protect the child has led to massive public interest, personnel changes in the Council department responsible and demands for changes in the way that such cases are handled.

 

What of a suicide victim?

A suicide doesn't normally generate much publicity.  There are those, and Mrs Carr is one, who are known to the NHS and other services as suffering from mental ill-health and as having attempted suicide, who receive minimal, if any, treatment for their mental health problems.

People struggle - often for years - self-harm, overdose, commit suicide because they are left helpless, distraught, despairing.  Suicide is not an irrational action but rather it is the rational outcome to a hopeless and intolerable life.

There is sympathy for those with terminal illnesses or severe paralysis who bring an end to their suffering by ending their life.  Unfortunately, such sympathy rarely extends to the mentally ill who can take no more.  They are seen as ill, irrational, weak, "it's their fault", "if only they would buck up their ideas", "we're well rid of them".  There is prejudice, stigma, stereotyping, ignorance, incompetence, neglect - yes, neglect! 

Lives become hopeless and intolerable because the caring services don't care, they neglect to look after these patients properly.  The ill are non-people.  If children were neglected by the services as are these adults there would be, justifiably, a massive outcry, questions raised in parliament, change would happen but for these unfortunate adults there is utter shameful neglect, left to live or die by an uncaring service. 

Many don't start out wanting to die but that is where they end up because the NHS either ignores them or offers inadequate treatment for their severe needs and social services unable to provide proper support. 

Why are the needy, the desperate left to cope with no, or totally inadequate, support?

Why can the so-called caring services not see the the real situation? Why do they not realise that massive support is required just to keep some functioning at the most basic level?  Christ, it's not rocket science!  Just proper diagnosis, no stigmatising labels, correct treatment, identify needs and supply care.

We've seen the outcry when a child is allowed to die of neglect but adults are allowed to die of neglect, not of their parents but of the state and there is shameful silence. 

Correctly we would never criticise a baby. Likewise those adults who commit suicide shouldn't be criticised. 

Their deaths are a flag to the uncaring services we have in this country.

Their deaths shame our politicians!

Their deaths shame the NHS!

Their deaths shame all of us!

Their deaths are a national scandal!

What are we as a society that we tolerate this?

 

I finish with Councillor Gorrie's quote with one word removed to make it more apposite for the care of potential suicide victims:

"No one should be rewarded for failure in public service. .....  Those in top jobs in public service should be put on notice - there is no hiding place for incompetence and deceit for those charged with looking after the vulnerable children in our society."

Most of us with direct and indirect experience of mental health services know that for far too long incompetence and deceit have gone unchallenged and that unnecessary deaths have gone unremarked and unmissed.

 

NO MORE!

10 comments:

  1. Powerful and insightful. I do so wish "they" would take notice.

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  2. Excellent article as always Calum, although I wish that the situation were different and we didn't have the need for your powerful writing.

    The problem is that suicide is feared and misunderstood by the vast majority of people, including many working in the health and caring services. It is a 'selfish' act or an 'attention-seeking' one - a conscious and deplorable act designed to drag oneself to the centre of attention.

    Of course these views bear no resemblance to the reality of issues such as suicide and self-harm. Self-harm can often be a form of self-preservation, a way of the mind relieving intolerable stress within itself by inflicting distracting pain on the body. Suicide is the final desperate act of someone who can see no other option - if it is focussed on the self it is because the person has lost any opportunity to connect to a supportive external form of support or reference.

    I hate when people say "it's just a cry for help" - of course it bloody well is, why then do we not listen to it. We hear the cry and then blame the person concerned for forcing us to be confronted with their pain - why couldn't they just keep it to themselves.

    Your editing of the councillor's statement makes it the kind of reflection that we would like, and indeed deserve, to be seeing from our elected representatives, unfortunately it is still lacking. The death of Baby P was deplorable and disgusting - but so are the deaths, so often avoidable, of every other vulnerable person in our communities.

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  3. Dragonstar Thanks. Unfortunately I'm getting to hear more painful stories of suicide and near-suicide.

    Any insights I have come from the pain of others and any power from my anger at a system which shuns the needy.

    NaViW Thanks for your very considered comment. Your second, third and fourth paragraphs: - I wish I had written! This is an excellent summary. Thanks are due for this alone. If I may I will quote this at some later date.

    Again, many thanks for this and your kind words.

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  4. With my current situation, there is every reason to despair but to do so leads to that long, dark night to oblivion or to live as a semi-human. I'm determined never to go down that path, of which suicide is one of the options.

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  5. James

    Thanks.

    Unfortunately no-one that I know chose to go down the suicide route. Often, I believe, there is no choice involved.

    Suicide is at the end of a long road along which people are carried. Only near the end of the road of despair, pain and utter hopelessness does suicide become a logical choice.

    If only one could say, "I will not go down this road.

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  6. Don't despair, James.

    Calum, this was a moving post. I've been concerned at the outsourcing of responsibility--capita appointed the head of social services in this case, for example-- and the appearance of compassion masking the reality of poor organisation and tremendous pressures in social work for some time.

    But you crystallise what is really at stake. The end of a life is the end of a world. Those who take life destroy a world entire, and that is something rational people should not do.

    A society that does not allow people a little warmth, and which makes hope irrational, is one that those on the edge or who have seen the dark must bear witness against, or try to change.

    For those reasons alone, suicide should be treated as a tragedy, with compassion, but opposed by anyone with an interest in life being more than a scramble in the dark.

    I wish you well. I hope that you always find some reason to see the good in life, if only for a moment given your pressures, and that we can change it even when things seem dire.

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  7. Calum....well again thought this was insightful...btw my Doctor wrote to the Psychiatrist he felt was being passed from pillar to post...he was sharing my frustrations.....

    The Psychiatrist saw me he relayed along the lines he has many suicidal patients.......but he is stubborn...well when it is ones life you somehow know you do not wish to be living like that...mentioned to my Doctor that perhaps he has some many suicidal patients as he never sees them :)

    Am not going back to mental health i have looked back over the last weeks from September and they have had no input at all, despite tremendous efforts on my part to help myself, waited all that time for help....so now am in limbo land....my point is how can you have faith and trust in a system such as this and many other reasons to long to go into.

    Feel worked hard in those weeks to get help/support, did not expect them to solve my problems but somehow i thought they would come alongside me.

    Went from massive extreme overdoses/alcohol to nothing and no input..the fact am here still is unreal as have no recollection of parts of the summer at all..just to get the help supposedly available.

    Read a very very interesting article and he has more here, scroll down to 19th April where he writes http://nhsblogdoc.blogspot.com/2007/04/crippen-diaries-2007-16.html

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  8. I posted this:

    'Good post but I kind of winced when I came across this: ' We are not talking the teenage girl’s three paracetamol and an Alcopop'. Many teenage girls who self harm/ repeatedly overdose have, at some point in their lives, been through some kind of trauma (some have been sexually abused) You can make the case for 'David' without diminishing the psychological trauma that self-harming teenagers have to deal with.'

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  9. Sorry that was me: Louise. I pressed the submit button prematurely:

    I posted this:

    'Good post but I kind of winced when I came across this: ' We are not talking the teenage girl’s three paracetamol and an Alcopop'. Many teenage girls who self harm/ repeatedly overdose have, at some point in their lives, been through some kind of trauma (some have been sexually abused) You can make the case for 'David' without diminishing the psychological trauma that self-harming teenagers have to deal with.'

    Was I wrong?

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  10. rielouise

    Thanks, you make an excellent point.

    I think your comment belongs in my "Bog Off David, You Are A Pain In The Ass." post but - no prob - I'll answer your comment here.

    I think Dr Crippen didn't need to diminish teenage girls' problems. I must admit I hadn't picked up on this point. I was making a diferent point, as you know, but ... I should have picked up on this and commented.

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