Nearly friends by Birmingham photographer Barry Robinson

Bipolar incident

Dealing with the police when you have mental health issues is never an easy thing, especially when manic and drunk. Being so drunk that you lose all takes the whole things to another level, especially in these times of statistics and targets. It should be added that being loud isn’t in itself not a crime.

The images below where shot while I was documenting some Amnesty International fundraisers doing their job.

The guy, who never gave me his name, came over to inquire what we were doing. I think more precisely why I was there, and almost immediately launched into a half Brum, half Jamaican rant on the nature of policing in the area. Needless to say he was not really in favour of it, and also quite vocal.

Everyone, at the end of the day, wants to drink their coffee in peace, but let’s all get real for a second. It’s just a cup of coffee. Compared to a man’s liberty  it’s not a national treasure, and he wasn’t actually hurting anyone at the time.

Yes, he was a bit loud, but as someone who personally suffers from a phobia of crowds I can attest to the fact that he was in no way threatening.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that people who exhibit clear mental health problems, compounded through alcohol, and often drug use, should get a free pass. Simply that there should be a better way to deal with being annoyed than calling the police. In a supposedly intelligent society the words “He’s had endless amounts of support” ring a little hollow when spoken by someone with handcuffs at the ready in the waist of their utility belt [along with the truncheon and taizer].

The police, while dealing with the incident, were either the nicest people in uniform I’ve encountered, or more likely very aware of a well respected human rights charity in close proximity, along with a man with a camera documenting it all.

As it happens I wasn’t on site in any official capacity, and was merely compiling some images as a favour to my wife as part of a present for one of her colleagues who’s leaving soon for university.

The point is that when everyone starts to tread on eggshells at the  presence of Amnesty International you have to wonder what might have happened if they hadn’t been there?

More importantly what they felt they were glossing over?

In the end we made our excuses and left! The atmosphere was no longer conducive to fundraising, and the man’s insistence that everything was being documented had begun to exacerbate the situation.

As we drove away he was calmly walking to the local police station, not in handcuffs, as he’s probably done so many times before. You have to wonder however how long it will be before an ASBO is handed down to make up the statistics on street crime. At that point he looses the flat he so proudly told us he lives in. He loses the right to live in that area, and becomes yet another homeless person with mental health issues! Then what? Hostel? Mental health ward?

Final question! Should we not be judged by how we treat the weakest, most vulnerable in our society? If the argument that children can not defend themselves, and so should be defended, isn’t that also true for others who lack the power to know that what they’re doing is unreasonable?

Just a question…


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