A close friend of mine basically received a 3 year prison sentence for attempting to take his own life after being discharged from a mental health hospital. He is now in a battle with the probation service who have taken it upon themselves to ignore children’s services and a psychiatric report, two expert analysis’s, but no!, the opinion of one probation officer based on who knows seems to carry the more weight. I wanted to share his story with you but rather than I put it in my words I asked my friend to write it in his own words. The following is an unedited version of his story:
I am a 52 year old man who for many years self-medicated my depression with alcohol. Historically at times of extreme emotional turmoil such as the break up of a meaningful relationship could become even suicidal.
In December 2015 during one of these periods attempted to end my life several times, including an overdose that ended in intensive care cutting, and attempted drowning for which I was admitted to the local mental hospital, this culminated in me driving my car home setting light to a camping stove on the passenger seat and waiting for the smoke to kill me. The heat was so intense and I did get out suffering burns to my head and face. At no point did I consider the consequences of my actions or intend to cause any harm to anyone else.
I had just been discharged from the local mental hospital diagnosed with a personality disorder and at further risk of suicidal attempts, with no where to go on Christmas eve.
I was subsequently arrested at the scene and taken into police custody. The police were adamant I should go to hospital but once in magistrates court was remanded into custody.
Once in prison the mental health care really kicked in, I was able to access firstly the emergency care needed.
I never denied what I had done and was eventually sentenced following 2 psychiatric reports to 3 years in prison. I was assessed as not posing a danger to the public or staff or children by a forensic psychiatrist.
While serving my time I engaged in all the mental health treatment available Including CBT, services that were not made available to me in hospital or the community, I became a Samaritans trained listener to help other troubled prisoners and a St Giles peer advisor aiding the resettlement of others.
Following an assessment from children’s services made contact again with my son and occasionally my daughter who understandably was still very angry with me. I always accepted both of my children’s view points.
I was also considered suitable for D cat prison at first review which in its self is unusual for the offence I was convicted of.
At the halfway point of the sentence was released on licence and this is where the situation deteriorated. Prior to this I met with my offender manager in the community. From the outset he came across as not caring about my current situation or welfare rather I would do as you are told type of attitude.
He wanted to approved premises in Ipswich despite issues around my mental health that would have been difficult to overcome, advice from my therapist, and prison probation. Each time someone tried to contact him on the subject he was often unavailable. Finally about 2 weeks prior to release I was allowed to stay in Norwich approved premises.
I was informed I could access support from here. Truth is the only support I had or was offered was that which I had put into place prior to leaving prison. I was regularly drug and alcohol tested all of which were proven to show I had indeed stopped my use of alcohol. In fact have not considered a return to alcohol at all.
After about three weeks was accepted into a supported living environment, Called my offender manager to inform him to be told we are not ready for this yet. Was desperately disappointed returned to the approved premisses to voice my concerns. To my surprise the staff there agreed with me that it would be far more beneficial for me to be there rather than with them, one even admitted they could not understand after reading my case thoroughly why I was placed in approved premises.
A week later decision was changed and I now reside in this place. The staff here have supported me in a way that far exceeded any previous support.
My offender manager decided I could not have contact with my children until he had another report from children’s services, his request was returned stating no further report was required they were happy for the children’s mother and I to manage it going forward. Despite this and the psychiatric report still have on my licence conditions “ not to have unsupervised contact with children under 16”. At this point was allowed supervised contact with my son.
Latter my daughter indicated that I could start to get a little closer to her in suggestions that I could do things that would mean I would be in the same vicinity as her. This I reported to my offender manager along with the fact she had suffered a panic attack.
She then attended school and was taken to the doctors stating she was having suicidal thoughts. I requested to be able to see her as I had been informed she wanted to see me. Speaking to the duty manager as my offender manager was unavailable she called her mother and spoke to my daughter who stated she was desperate to see me, I was allowed to see her. Later she had a psychiatric appointment and she asked if I could go. I informed my offender manager who in my opinion looked for reasons not to grant this as asked the children’s mother why it was important for me to go. He did however grant this. However he will now not grant me further access to her even in a supervised environment despite an escalation of her mental health state, and physical well being until such time as he can get a report from my daughters support worker. I have pointed out that one phone call to my daughters mother and my daughter would resolve this to be told that’s not my job, this I have been informed that since she has suffered physical and mental injury could be considered negligence.
Just one further point to note my current risk assessment is one that was completed at the time of my offence nearly 2 years ago. Despite the evidence in the psychiatric report and the fact children’s services have stated they are happy us to manage contact, my offender manager just states he has chosen to disagree.
I have despite the emotional challenges to my family and myself followed all licence conditions however unfair and disproportionate they may feel and will continue to do so.