Wednesday, 24 September 2014

No, it has not been quiet

here. An alleged terrorist was shot dead yesterday - after stabbing two police officers.
I say "alleged"  because there is always the possibility that the person in question was genuinely mentally ill and not responsible for their actions. Whatever, the individual was allegedly making threats against the Prime Minister and was allegedly violent.
We may get more such incidents and at least some of those who are involved in them will be mentally ill.
Some years ago part of our local shopping centre was destroyed by fire. It has since been rebuilt but it is not the same place as it was before. (Yes, there have been questions about whether it was arson designed to allow redevelopment. Nobody has ever been charged.)
Before the fire there was a seat outside the post office and the shoe shop. There was a mentally ill man who used to spend quite a lot of time sitting there. He would take occasional swigs of Coca-Cola from the large bottle he bought each morning.
He was completely harmless, in fact people would often say "hello" and he would say "hello" in return. I would sometimes tell him to tie a shoe lace or help with getting another multi-trip bus ticket. His day was made up of coming to the centre, sitting there and watching people, and then going back to the hostel he lived in.
After the fire there was nowhere for him to go. I can remember him standing there looking at the damage and then looking sadly at me before saying,
           "Got nowhere to sit."
He left and I never saw him again. I hope he found another safe place but I wonder.
He was not violent, just odd and incapable of handling the world. He was probably not that bright either, certainly he could not read or write and he had no idea of how much money he needed for anything.  In an odd way though I liked him. He was always the same until that last time.
With the "increased need for security" I now wonder what will happen to people like him. I wonder what will happen to others who appear to be violent and a danger to others. Social policies have demanded that those with special needs be "out in the community" but, all too often, they are not given the help they need. It is simply seen as two expensive to provide it.
And so, if the young man who was killed yesterday turns out to have been mentally ill, I think we need to ask some questions of ourselves. Is he responsible or are we? How do we ensure that people with his special needs get help?
No, there won't be answers - but that should not stop us asking the questions and being aware.

No comments: