The other night, I was locked up in the Police holding cells. I wasn’t under arrest… I was being assessed under the Mental Health Act. I’m still struggling to see how this is an appropriate way to respond to someone with mental health issues.
The events leading up to my detainment are fairly complex, but the event which triggered the Police involvement was when I abruptly ended a call to the crisis team. I know that wasn’t the wisest thing to do, and even though I said “goodbye”, the end of the call was abrupt. This hasn’t been an issue in the past, but for some reason, this time they contacted the Police.
A unit was sent to my house to “assess me”. As I had stamped everything back down after talking to the crisis team, I felt sure that this would be nothing more than a formality… I was wrong. The two Police who turned up, said that I didn’t appear happy; so they suggested that they take me back to the station for an assessment by one of the local crisis team. As I knew that this “suggestion” was not really a suggestion, I went along with them.
This is when things started to get really weird… I was sitting in the back of the police car with the female officer, and she read me my rights – my criminal rights… you know those ones they recite to people in handcuffs in television programs… the ones where I have the right to remain silent, and everything that you say or do can, and will, be taken down and used in a court of law… those rights.
I sat there rather stunned, but agreed that I understood my rights. She assured me that I wasn’t under arrest, but that assurance came too late… my mind raced to when my father used to take me to the police station with him for the raffle draws, and specifically the time when the policeman put me in the cells to show me what happened to “bad girls”.
When we got to the Police station, things became surreal… I was processed – my property inventoried; my jacket taken (because it had ties); my shoes and earrings removed. I asked to keep my phone because of my anxieties, but that request was denied.
I was then taken from the intake area to the desk, where I stood within the red square on the floor, and was questioned about my criminal past (or lack thereof). Thankfully I was wearing jeans which are about two sizes too big, so I could drag the excess material down and stand on that, rather than the cold concrete floor.
Then one of the worst things I have ever experienced… I was taken to a holding cell. The sound that the door made as they locked me in was incredible.
I sat on the stainless steel bench, shivering uncontrollably, trying to keep it together. I tried to focus on a spot on the floor of the cell and stay present. The internal noise was incredible… screaming… yelling that this is what you get for telling the secrets… voices saying to shut up… urges to self-injure… everything came in a rush.
When the crisis team came to assess me, he joined me in the cell. A man I didn’t know sitting between me and the door, in a small, locked cell.
He asked all of the usual questions, and I reassured him in all the usual ways. All I wanted to do was go home… that became my goal. Anything to leave that cell.
He agreed that I could go home.
I know that the crisis team, and the police need to be aware of the safety of their staff… but how is this an appropriate way to handle someone with mental health issues? At no point was I violent. I never raised my voice. I never even looked any of them in they eye. I was compliant and answered all of their questions. So why was I put in a locked cell which is usually used for criminal suspects? I don’t understand.
I remember asking if I was under arrest when they were processing my property. The policewoman said that I wasn’t… but yet, I was being treated like a criminal.
All I did wrong, was ask for help. Don’t worry, I won’t be doing that again.