Updates from SOS.
2017 has been an incredibly busy year for SOS and the last 3 months of 2017 are no different
Here’s what we’ve been up to recently and details of our more immediate SOS meetings.
Grenfell: Our ‘Safe Space to Talk’ meeting last month was extremely well attended, even by young people who came along with their parents. To hear our younger generations talk about the Grenfell atrocity and how it’s impacted upon them is something we must encourage and nurture.
It can be easy to let the needs of our young people take a back seat amid all the political argument, but the truth is, if we don’t act now to support and assist, we will all pay a heavy penalty for our ignorance in years to come.
Our next meeting is this coming Friday 20th October at Notting Hill Methodist Church between 6 and 8 pm. We look forward to welcoming you all.
Following meetings with the MOJ, our visit to HMP Bristol was the first time we’d delivered SOS to inmates and it was a very different experience from our usual meetings.
Again, the Samaritans had a representative there whom we spoke to at some length afterwards and we have to congratulate her on the work she puts in, allowing inmates to share confidences in complete confidence.
Many prisoners who attended were ‘listeners’ – ie, inmates who were there to offer support to other inmates and help them through a challenging period in their lives; it was a great pity that more non listeners were not invited as these were the people SOS is aimed at.
However, some inmates clearly had very strong views about their treatment whilst on remand and some felt they were never listened to and things wouldn’t change.
This said, the staff appeared very keen to move the prison environment into a more productive and stable space for inmates and are clearly anxious to address suicide and self harm within prisons. It is not just the prisoners who are affected when inmates are struggling to cope, there is huge concern and sadness amongst prison staff too.
Bristol is a ‘transient’ prison – rarely are prisoners there for any length of time – it is designed as a short stay facility before inmates are transferred to the prison they will serve the majority of their sentence. This lack of continuity only adds to the problems. First time prisoners have to adapt to losing their freedom and engaging in a new lifestyle regime not once, but twice, sometimes more. It should be no surprise that so many changes result in some people being unable to cope.
We spoke to people who’d attempted suicide, those who were new prisoners, those who’d been in prison before – the whole spectrum was covered along with a diverse age group. Some felt they needed more support, others felt they had to ‘man up’ and take their punishment.
What is absolutely clear is that prison is not the best place for some people. Those with existing mental health issues were failed when they were part of the open society and this failure needs addressing, not just for the benefit of those in need, but to help reduce the over crowding within prison walls.
Punishment by incarceration for those with mental heath issues is not, and never will be, a form of treatment.
This vicious circle needs breaking.
The Week Ahead – commencing 16/10/17
This week is packed with SOS meetings – Grenfell, University of Oxford PPE Society and a special meeting for all those 1950’s ladies who’ve been affected by changes to their pensions, resulting in severe psychological distress and thoughts of suicide.
The Grenfell meeting is open to anyone affected by the atrocity. The other two are closed events.
What else we’ve been doing:
On Saturday evening, Michael and I were honoured to speak at a fund raising event for SOS and two other charities which was entitled Young Minds Matter.
This event was put together by a local Mum called Sue Roberts and sponsored by care home Leycester House. Sue has worked like superwoman putting this event together and she deserves huge credit, not to mention thanks, for making this such a superb awareness raising evening – thank you for ever Sue!
The amount of young musical talent in one room was staggering. The musicians, the singers, all of them simply amazing. All gave their hearts and souls during the course of the evening, including pupils from many local schools and even a young man, Taha Elamin, who is currently taking part in Coriolanus at the Royal Shakespeare Company – what wonderful futures lie ahead for these youngsters.
We felt truly humbled that these young people, plus the countless others who contributed to the event, were doing so to raise awareness of mental health in young people.
There are simply too many people to mention, but our huge thanks goes out to everyone involved.
A special mention for Charlotte – a young lady who’s battling her demons right now and sadly couldn’t be with us on the evening – keep fighting Charlotte, you can and will make a difference and have so many people thinking of you.
Also a thank you to the BridgeHouse Theatre in Warwick for accommodating the event. Superb venue, absolutely perfect for so many events if you’re planning anything. You can still support Young Minds Matter via their fundraising page.
It’s time to stop the silence