Self-harmers can be a real pain in the arse, to the police, obviously, I’ve met a variety of them but I’ve not yet met one who harms themselves in that particular part of their anatomy.
They say it’s a ‘cry for help’. I’m not entirely sure what that means but whatever it is I know that the police are not the ones who can provide it, yet we’re the ones who have to deal with it, again & again.
The ones who do it in public are usually fairly straightforward although some take longer than others; if they’re in a public place you can ‘section’ them under terms of the Mental Health Act, cart them off to hospital & leave the problem for someone else (granted the hospital rarely has a problem as while we’re taking them in the front door some overworked psychy nurse is opening the back door). Mind you, some take hours & hours & we’re often sitting in A & E while the hospital finds a psychiatrist – who more often than not is more mental than the people we take in to them – willing to get out of bed.
Self-harmers rarely do anything drastic like jump off a multi-storey. When they do they’re not usually called self-harmers, they’re normally known as ‘dead’.
Ones in public are simple, you talk to them for a bit & either just grab them – they don’t usually put up much of a fight – or bore them into going to hospital as a voluntary patient, which is great ‘cos you don’t have to baby-sit them. And they are great for getting commendations when you selflessly drag them from some precipice somewhere.
The real pains are the ones who self-harm at home. Trying to section someone at home is like trying to get the goverment to reduce its target-led statistics, impossible. They can take a whole shift. They usually cut themselves & with the same severity as the injuries I sustain while putting a crown court file together & getting serious paper cuts.
I made the mistake of being sympathetic to one of our regulars once. Her name was Susan & her speciality was chewing razor-blades.Typically her mother would phone saying Susan had locked herself in the bathroom & was threatening suicide, again. If mum was really pissed off she’d just ignore it & then Susan would ring in herself, saying she’d locked herself in the bathroom and was threatening suicide.
We’d go, spend an hour or more persuading her to take the blades out of her mouth and watching her baring her teeth to show the slivers of the blade and the red of her dribbling blood. An ambo would take her away and she’d be home within two hours ready for the next shift. I never found out what it was Susan wanted or why she felt the need for this particular form of attention. As I said, I was sympathetic, the whole shift were on first name temrs with her. I think I mustn’t have told her to grow up & fuck off once and she cottoned on to me. She’d ring to find out when I was on duty and wait until then before performing.
Her method was quite effective to officers who’d never met her. She’d cut the insides of her cheeks & let the blood dribble down her face onto her clothes and onto the floor, sometimes she’d wipe it or spit it up the walls for extra effect. She used to write poems for me and give them to officers who attended to give to me, or put them in the post to the nick. Some of them were quite good. She illustrated them with quite arty doodles.
I never found out the root cause of Susan’s problems, I wasn’t that interested to be honest.
I first knew Susan 15 or more years ago. I checked up on her recently. She’s stopped using razor-blades. Life has moved on.
She uses prescription drugs now.