World Suicide Prevention Day – 10 September 2019: A message for Derbyshire Community Mental Health Services

Trigger warning!

My life was spiralling out of control and I couldn’t see a future.  I wanted someone to talk to, to tell me what to do, and that everything would be alright.  I had been given the number for the Crisis Team sometime before and thought they might be able to help.  I was wrong.  The woman I spoke to on the phone was unsympathetic and quite nasty.  I felt worse; I wanted to get away.  I think I swore at her and then I put the phone down.  I grabbed my bag and keys, got in the car, and drove away.

I didn’t know where I was going; I was on auto-pilot.  I drove the ten-minute journey to the M1 and headed south.  I needed time to think, and the motorway would allow for that.  I started to calm down and, after an hour or so, I stopped off for a coffee.  Back on the M1, I was still heading south and unsure about where to go.  I couldn’t face going back home to an empty house.  After a while, I noticed a police car parked up on my left, up a grass bank.  It pulled away soon after I passed.  I thought for a moment that it was following me but couldn’t see why it would be, so dismissed it.  However, shortly before the Northampton Services, several beams suddenly lit up and two cars appeared in front and to the right side of me, with the one behind closing up.  The lights on top of the front car were flashing ‘follow me’. 

I had no choice but to follow the car into the Services.  When it stopped, so did I.  Then, several police officers were shouting at me to open the door.  It was all so rushed, I panicked and couldn’t remember how to open the door.  After a few minutes of more shouting and banging on the window, I managed to open it.  An officer grabbed the keys from the ignition and told me to sit in the police car behind.  They weren’t nasty.  In fact, one of the female officers was very nice.  She told me that they had received a call from the Crisis Team, saying I was potentially suicidal, and so they were detaining me under s.136 of the Mental Health Act.  I would be taken to the nearby Berrywood psychiatric unit for assessment.  After telling her my story, the officer advised me to repeat it to the two doctors and social worker who would be assessing me.  She sounded optimistic that I would get the help I needed.

An ambulance took me from the Service Station to Berrywood Hospital and on arrival, I was taken to the waiting room used for s.136 assessments.  It was a relatively small room, with four seats and a small table.  I was offered food and drink and told that, although the door would not be locked, I was not to leave the room.  If I needed the toilet, I should shout for one of the nurses.  I was given some magazines and then I sat and waited for the two doctors and social worker.  They wouldn’t be long, I was told.  I felt relatively calm.

Twelve hours later, I was not so calm.  I had been given more food and drink, and had been taken to the toilet a couple of times but other than that, I had seen no-one.  I was tired but couldn’t sleep sitting up.  After a while, I had put the chairs and table to one side of the room, giving me more space to lie down.  The floor was carpeted but still very uncomfortable. 

I was becoming desperate.  I asked to be taken to the toilet again.  It was a large bathroom, with a shower.  The shower head and pole looked quite sturdy.  I hadn’t been searched so I still had my phone, as well as the charger I always carried with me.  I took off my belt, tied it to the charger wire, and put it round my neck.  I moved the chair under the shower, stood on it and tied the other end of the belt/wire to the shower pole.  I crouched down until it was tight round my neck.  It would probably work, I thought, but there was a chance I would only break my neck and become disabled.  I couldn’t take the chance.  I went back to my room.

I needed some fresh air.  I had spotted a door near the toilet that led to a small outside seating area.  I waited until the corridor was clear and then left my room and went into the garden.  After a few minutes though, I was spotted by a nurse.  She came out and told me to get back to the room.  I told her I wasn’t spending another minute in that bloody room.  ‘We’ll soon see about that’, she replied.  She left, and returned with two, rather large, male nurses.  The look on their faces told me they meant business.  ‘Well, maybe just another fifteen minutes’, I said, and walked back to the room.

Thirty minutes later, the two doctors and social worker arrived to assess me.  They asked how I was.  I told them that if I could stay in this room for thirteen straight hours without cracking up, then I must be fine.  They apologised but said that it had been difficult to get the three of them together at the same time.  I relaxed, and told them my story.  I told them about the years of fantasies and bad thoughts, and how I couldn’t see a future. 

They listened intently and seemed to understand.  They asked if I would be willing to be admitted to the Hartington psychiatric unit in Chesterfield so that I could be properly assessed.  Once there, I would receive the help I needed, they said.  I believed them and, despite what subsequently happened, I still believe they genuinely thought I would be helped.

The social worker was especially kind and helpful, and drove me to the Hartington unit herself.  I felt hopeful that someone could help me.  Soon after my arrival, I saw the duty psychiatrist. I told her what the Northamptonshire doctors had told me about getting help.  ‘Well, you can forget that’, she said, ‘you’re in Derbyshire now’.  I was no longer hopeful.