In the summer of 2015, I was detained in a police cell while suffering a mental health episode. Interestingly enough it was not under section 136. Medical professionals discharged me from the 136 days before being detained in a police cell under section 2 of the mental health act. It was the most traumatic thing I have ever experienced.
Parts of the episode are a blur to me, but I remember the time spent in detention vividly. I was pleading to speak to a solicitor, a right promised to me and highlighted by the Metropolitan police document that they gave me. They treated me with such disdain that the intercom system was cut off regularly because I had the audacity to exercise my right to a solicitor. I quickly lost track of time in there and minutes began to feel like hours.
The manner in which they placed me in the cell twice was beyond reproach. Five or six officers escorted me to the cell, like a hardened criminal acting very aggressively towards me, shouting and applying unreasonable pressure while I was on the floor. I have to reiterate the fact that I was not resisting at all, yet the officers were not using reasonable force given the situation. The experience had a detrimental effect on my mental health for sure; I hit breaking point spiritually, and I wept during periods of the incarceration.
They violated my human rights and when I sought compensation from the police, they were adamant that they did everything by the book. I still do not understand how people still refer to prison cells as “place of safety” and I am not aware how often cells are utilised following the application of section 2, was I treated uniquely or is this a common practice? I have spoken to numerous officers following my discharge and they all state that they would not take somebody suffering a mental health crisis to a prison cell. My question is how much discretion do the officers have? There was a story earlier this year about a young woman who slept in a police car because no hospitals were available and they did not want her to spend the night in a cell.
This experience inspired me to create “Prison by Another Name?” a monthly mental health forum focusing on the injustice that is perpetrated against the black community when it comes to mental health. As a young black man, I am more likely to enter the mental health service through emergency section than early intervention. Even when I sought assessment, I was denied by the NHS. Through conducting this forum, I discovered Find a Balance, a mental health service that develops bespoke personal care plans tailored to the individual’s needs. The holistic service they provide focuses on physical health, talking therapy, education and business. The cultural sensitivity and expertise they provide would have made them the perfect organisation to have spoken to during my episode which maybe would have prevented me from getting detained in the police cell in the manner that I did.
To read the full story regarding my mental health episode search for “My Polar Opposites: A Blessing in the Skies” by Eche Egbuonu on Amazon.