For those of you who don’t know about suicide and self harm it may be worth taking a wee look at this. I know some of you will say “Oh, he’s off again about how hard done by he was in prison.” Tough, don’t read on then. The one thing I will say is that I never once complained about my punishment. I do however take umbrage at how it was delivered.
For the past few days a cloud of doom has swept over me like the all too familiar blanket that used to envelop me in prison. The trouble is that ‘now’ I realise that it used to envelop me when I was a teenager and followed me through my adult life. I never knew about the many guises of ‘self harm’ and ‘depression’ and how they can rule one’s life without one actually knowing.
Niall Breslin of ‘The Voice of Ireland’, with a sporting background tells his story in the video. He tells of the best advice he was ever given was to not give advice and to simply tell your own story. I’ve been preaching this for years. Please take a bit of time it will change your mind.
At this particular moment in time all I can see is the image in an Irish Newspaper of an abandoned Jeep on a beach head owned by a friend of a dear friend of mine. I think of the smiles, the false laughter, the solitude, the desperation, the bliss of putting an end to it all and indeed the strength it takes not only to end it but to put one foot in front of the other to do just that.
My soon to be sorted book explains a lot of this as it happens and hopefully I will find the strength to edit the last few pages. My trouble is ‘revisiting’. Each and every time I sit down with strength and conviction (sorry no pun intended) I get a few paragraphs done and slip back into those moments and that time. Smell them, feel them and sadly re-live them. Why do I feel this way when, as we all know, the duty of care delivered by prison in the name of society, is one of rehabilitation and guiding the individual to purposeful life upon release. I mean, it wasn’t like I was physically beaten and tortured every day now is it.
I recall sitting at a meeting in Stormont with all the big cheeses discussing this duty of care. I have mentioned this before, it keeps cropping up yet nobody seems to pay attention. How can people function as people when they don’t get enough sleep? Is the word torture too harsh a word to describe this mental beating delivered under the guise of safer custody? The reality of what prison is; is in fact a part of all of us. I have been guilty (again no pun) of being one of the lock em up and throw away the key brigade. That is, of course, until it happened to me.
Some might say that I’m feeling sorry for myself, don’t do the crime… blah, blah, blah but prison was and is not about that. I could have handled beatings and fighting with officers as I could have at least fought back. The beauty and I mean beauty of prison is that it is designed to mentally break-down ones will. The suicide and self harm rates in prison are growing. Many blame Government cuts resulting in staff shortages but the resounding truth is that Government do not enforce regimes. Prison enforces prison regimen with little input from anyone on the out. Prison staff control how people are treated – no one else.
Any person who has been inside will tell you that part of the morning ritual was to see who was on duty. This dictated your day. Some might think the longer you have the easier it gets but this was not true for me. My story involves weight loss through stress, mental breakdown and moments of complete psychosis in my last six months. One would think all of this would happen at the start. it does but this has more to do with adapting to choice being removed from one’s life and being looked at as a nothing. People who go to prison automatically become stigma by those who enforce. The trouble with that is we all bleed, we all breath and we all live and share the same oxygen as the rest of society but are deemed ‘Non’ by the arbiters of justice.
Now, this just doesn’t happen as a method of control for the good running, order and discipline of the institution of prison. It is in fact engrained in the structure of the institution. There is no staff training that allows for certain processes to kick in once a body says ‘please sir can I have some more’ or ‘why’. The unwavering rock of this institution is its ability to mentally destroy hope and will.
The institution of prison is given lovely sound bites like duty of care and rehabilitation but I ask you to go look yourself in the mirror and ask “do I believe that?” Secretly, or not so secretly we want revenge, hurt, pain, misery in the name of punishment but something is slowly emerging from listening to people stories and it is that those who got to prison are already suffering from all of the above all just take a wee look in the mirror and ask ourselves.
By watching this story by Naill I see that I, like many, have been suffering all my life and not really knowing what it was all about. Drink and drugs are to blame. No they are not. Depression is to blame. When I delivered a talk at Oxford last year I found myself, like Niall, locked in the toilet having a panic attack. Same at Liverpool a month before. Tomorrow evening I’m talking to parents of people in prison; trying to help them understand by explaining what their relative loved one can’t. The problem with many who are in and under the duty of care of our making is that they can’t take that step outside, that moment or the good night’s sleep that allows one to regain composure.
Forgive me if this sounds a bit rushed. I have to get going to my Monday morning therapy session and stroll along the tow-path. Where I live in my own world and try to undo the damage inflicted upon me by my peers. Please tell your story. Please share. Please talk. I’ve seen too many people disappear from this earth because they don’t. The trouble is I feel less and less when they do and that ain’t good. Have a good week folks. Just talk.