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COMMENT: Suicidal man deemed a ‘public nuisance’ by police.

“He is costing the police lot of time and money,” said Inspector Adrian Leisk.
“When he is down from the bridge, he will be dealt with under a public nuisance offence.”
My blood is boiling after reading this article on a local Devon news website. Is this really the public facing attitude of a senior police officer? A man who is clearly desperate enough to have attempted suicide on several occasions simply being labelled as a money and time waster, a public nuisance who will be arrested once they have talked him down?

There are no words that can describe how appalled I am.  Is there no one in a position of authority, the so-called protectors of our society, who will help this person? I am disgusted and furious that this poor man is simply being lambasted for being so desperate. Perhaps they are ignorant enough to think he wants to feel that desperate, that alone and that hopeless and that it’s his choice. Perhaps he does want to die, and perhaps, just perhaps, labelling him as a public nuisance who needs arresting like a criminal is reinforcing his own beliefs about his own worthlessness?

I don’t want to presume for a minute that I know what is going on for that poor man, but I bet my last penny that he already feels like a nuisance, a burden to society, or he wouldn’t have attempted suicide so many times in the first place. I wonder how the police officer (and others who have commented similar sentiments since) would feel should the worst happen and this man actually complete suicide?

I came across the link via my Twitter feed @clarewhitby, and discussed the issues with the owner of a blog about mental health issues in policing (http://mentalhealthcop.wordpress.com/).  Whilst my point revolved around the problem with labelling someone who is already desperate as a nuisance (and by definition of the police interpretation, committing a criminal offence), his point focused more around whether the legal system needed to come into play to ensure that future disturbances to the public did not continue.  I couldn’t agree more in the need to prevent future occurrences, but I am coming from a point of compassion first and foremost for the man at the centre of the story. Then and only then will the ‘problem’, as they see it, go away.

This news story really does demonstrate how far there is to go in changing attitudes towards mental health sufferers and suicidal people.  I thought we were breaking through and getting the message across, but reading this makes me realise just how far we still have to go.

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