I received an email invitation to help hand out leaflets at Farnham South Junior School on 30th April. Unbeknown to me, they changed their plans at the last minute and didn’t turn up. After a while, I started asking people the time & asking if they knew anything about the NHAP leafleting. Then I started getting verbally harassed by the school staff.
I have a crippling case of OCD, which I contracted because I was being subjected to violent attacks, and the police absolutely refused to do anything about it. Two years ago I was treated at a specialist NHS unit. Their most experienced therapist told me that I was so ill that I couldn’t even look after myself, and that I should in in 24 hour residential care. Unfortunately, she said, all the places that used to give that sort of care have been closed down to save money.
My Community Mental Health Trust has also told me that I can’t look after myself, but said that they can’t do it either. I get a short visit every few weeks. They said this is just to make sure I’m still alive. My Care Coordinator says she is under pressure to stop these visits and just discharge me. This is inline with the rules Labour introduced in 2006.
Apart from these visits, essential shopping trips, and occasional visits to the library to use their computers; I never go anywhere, do anything, or talk to anyone. This is mostly because I’m so ill I can’t even do simple things like tying my shoe laces. It’s also partly out of fear. After all, I’ve been attacked before, and the police absolutely refused to do anything about it. This is the reality of “Care in the Community”.
Bearing this in mind, you can understand why going to this leafleting event was a big deal for me. It took me over two hours to get there, and I was really proud of myself for managing it. And then I started getting harassed by the school staff. I was told repeatedly that I should leave the area because I looked suspicious. I asked why I looked suspicious and they didn’t. Their informal leader said “because we work at the school and you look suspicious because you’re wearing gloves and you’ve got no shoe laces”. It came to me that the Soham murders were committed by school caretaker Ian Huntley, and that, every year, several teachers are convicted of being paedophiles. Perhaps, I thought, people living in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
There were people sitting outside the school in cars. Two of these had their engines running, and one of those had darkened windows. They weren’t being bothered, but I was being singled out simply because I wore gloves and had no shoe laces.
Wearing gloves is common among people with severe OCD and a fear of contamination. Vinyl gloves are not lethal weapons. Criminals don’t take the laces out of their shoes to help them commit a crime and make a quick getaway. I have never even heard of some one wearing gloves, and without shoe laces, being convicted of any crime. This was a case of ignorant bigots thinking ‘this person looks different. He should be treated with fear and suspicion and driven away’. These people would have been right at home in Hitler’s Third Reich.
Politicians, who don’t want to spend any money on looking after the mentally ill, even when they can’t look after themselves, say that we should be living a normal life out in the community. This sort of thing obviously makes that impossible.
A report from by Victim Support and Mind (“At risk, yet dismissed” , October 2013), revealed that people with mental health problems are up to ten times more likely to become victims of crime than the general population, and far less likely to report fair and respectful treatment by police. Many participants described not being believed when they reported crimes, being blamed for the incident or being discredited because of their mental health problems. The police also drive people mad because they treat victims so badly.
True to form, the police turned in response to a call from the Deputy Head. Instead of arresting the school staff (who had gathered in a menacing crowd) for harassing me, he subjected me to a humiliating and distressing series of intrusive questions. Then, despite being unable to find any police record on me, he told me to leave the area. The leafleting was supposed to take place between 3:00 and 4:00, and by now it was 3:25, so I left, but I felt like shit, and I’ve been feeling bad ever since. Whenever some one with OCD is put under stress, it has a very negative effect on their mental health and makes their symptoms worse.
I wasn’t even allowed to stand on a public street waiting to take part in a General Election campaign event! What would have happened if this level of prejudice and discrimination had been directed at some one from a racial or religious minority? I have no doubt that senior politicians would be calling for the school to be shut down to stop them poisoning the minds of young children, and the police would be under heavy fire too. However, when it comes to mental illness, there are a lot of ignorant bigots in this country. There seem to be very few who are interested in upholding common decency and the rights of the mentally ill.