In 1996, when I was 24, I was doing pretty well after a number surgeries since I was young, and battling depression since I was 14.
Following that period, by my early 20's I was finally enjoying more of a social life, and I was going to college, but was then involved in an incident with a taxi driver, which although it wasn’t violent, left me very shaken up. I tried to report the incident and was told over the phone by the police to put it down to personal experience and not use them again.
A while after, I was at college and I was on work experience in London, and one day I was stopped and searched by two police officers. They didn’t give me a reason and I wasn’t sure what was going on, in fact I didn’t even notice the police car pull up behind me.
One of them kept talking to me while the other asked me to empty my pockets and searched my wallet. They searched me thoroughly in the street and I still wasn’t given a reason for their actions. I asked them for their names and they wrote them down.
I began having violent delusions
Somewhere in between that and receiving an apology for the stop and search (which was resolved informally) I began having violent delusions where I was stopped and searched, arrested, and beaten up in a police cell. I was awake while I was having these delusions, and it was always an exaggerated form of the stop and search, so they would start with being stopped and searched, I would normally be trying to explain what I was doing, and they wouldn’t believe me. Then I would be taken to a police station.
The delusions got increasingly violent, I would be punched, kicked in the face and beaten by 1 or 2 officers, and then if I tried to ask for help nobody would be interested. The delusions got really intense and lasted for around four or five months. I went to my doctor, and tried to explain what was happening. I had no words to describe them so I called them 'nightmares'. He gave me sleeping tablets.
Gradually my life got back on track
Gradually my life got back on track, I went to a new college, went to therapy and did pretty well. I was well for 12 years, and in that time was in therapy for three years and met a couple of people who helped.
In May 2010 I went to a local IDAHO event and met some of the Surrey Police Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Liaison Officers (LAGLOS). I asked if they do anything about mental health. I was quite scared because I didn’t want to explain it in detail. I was able to meet and talk about my experiences which helped. In the meantime I was still suicidal and trying to get help. I was assessed in July 2010 and was told that I was at a ‘low to moderate risk’. I obviously didn’t agree.
Later that year I was asked if I wanted to join the local police IAG (Independent Advisory Group). A number of people applied and after my interview I was then formally asked to join.
I've learnt a lot about how the police work
I've learnt a lot about how the police work and some things which I thought would be triggers haven't been. I still have issues but I also have real experiences to put in place of the thoughts I've had in the past, which so far has helped quite a lot.
When I gave a talk to the group of LAGLOs they were very interested and seemed willing to learn and certainly asked a lot of interesting questions. I felt that they wanted to understand my experience of the mental health service as well and the idea that even if someone is asking for help the don’t always get it. I think perhaps the more usual issue is the police trying to help someone who doesn’t think they need help.
I was also able to show them a couple of my films too
I was also able to show them a couple of my films too, which, although not about mental illness, I think did challenge their views.
With the IAG itself, although I’ve been a member for nearly a year now, there hasn’t been that much to do with mental health, so it may take a while before I really need to challenge anyone’s views (meetings are once every 2 months).
I know if I feel unable to say something in the public meeting I can contact speakers by email, so it certainly feels accessible. In the long run it’s been a good experience so far, and I hope it continues.