Sunday, 6 September 2015

An essay on suicidal thoughts and impulses whilst growing up, from a purely personal point of view, by Donald Hedges, BA(Hons)(Solent), DipEngLaw (Open). Please note that this is not an academic treatise.
My life whilst growing up has been marked by different degrees of brutalisation from my parents, both of whom beat me at various stages. My Dad’s speciality was to whack me round the head; he wouldn’t care whether or not he broke my glasses. My mother would tan my backside with a brush, or slap my legs. When I was five and in the bath, my father beat me and knocked me unconscious, resulting in a hospitalisation. My feeling about this is that he would have paid the doctors off, seeing that he had a secondhand furntiture shop just over the road. He would have paid them off so that the authorities were not involved and the police were not called.

At about the age of five or six I became depersonalised, so that I too began to hate the little boy that I still was; I began to regard my soul as an “it” to be disguised and my inner personality as a “thing” rather than a person.

I remember getting my first crop of suicidal thoughts when I was about seven or eight. Even today I would think this was quite rare. I first remember having these thoughts when Mother took me to the cinema; she would sit with me in the circle – I used to count the minutes and want her to talk to me within three minutes, otherwise I would fantasise about chucking myself off the balcony and being found a tangled wreck on the stalls below. I used to think that this would teach them a lesson. I did not think that I would be killing all of myself and that I would not be allowed to come back on this earth again – I used these thoughts as a comforting ritual for the fact that I was ignored and to comfort myself for my parents hatred of me. What it is to be hated by one’s parents at seven or eight years old is beyond description.

My thoughts and feelings were not so much a precursor to suicide as a comfort blanket. If I couldn’t get out of it at least I could think of getting out of it. Along with the thoughts of suicide as a comfort blanket were the thoughts and feelings I had when a teenager of how nice it would be to murder my parents – I did not have the means or the opportunity but again the thoughts were a comfort blanket.

I really thought that my school days were something of a disaster zone – despite being in the top stream all the way along I never seemed to make any headway. The only subjects that I could appreciate by 5th form stage were English Literature, Economic History and English Language and these were the first three Ordinary Levels which I ever obtained. I don’t think I was a popular boy until I reached the sixth form. All the others were given their house prefect badges about 9 months before I ever was and when I was given one I was like a maniac with the authority which had been granted. I think the rest of them had decent parents; my Dad was the one who had appeared on the front page of the Streatham News for assaulting a police inspector in the execution of his duty. I don’t somehow think I was liked and I think a lot of it was down to my father; they must have thought that he was a yob. He did a lot of drinking and raising hell in the Kennington area whilst I was a studious little boy trying to keep the company of lower middle class kids with brand new pianos and tape recorders, whilst I had to make do in a house with a dodgy two pin system and a ready means of electrocution whenever the fancy might take me.

I remember getting to a point in the sixth form where I just sat on the wall opposite the school and thought of leaving straightaway – I just felt so alienated from the other kids. I thought “What is the point of all of it all” and “If I left now, no-one would really miss me”!  I don’t think my colleagues had the faintest idea of the emotional trauma I was going through and the horrible sense of detachment and bifurcation I had from everyone and everything. I just did not belong.

I think what made everything a good deal worse was that my Dad had been up until that point (when I was 19) a complete an utter alcoholic wretch; I remember days and nights when I was a small boy trying to comfort my mother because he was never in the house and when he would come in he was steaming drunk and would be steaming mad as well.

He would never seem to understand anything about my schooling. He would say in a terse sort of way “You must get your levels”. He had no idea what level were in any shape or form. I caught him once when I was 12 saying to my mother “Don’t worry, when he is 15 he will bugger off and you won’t see him again!” I was regarded as someone who would leave school at 15 without anything and just get out of the house. However I managed to beat him for another four years and stay in the house. Even then he was a horror story.

I suppose during my late teenage years I managed to commit suicide in a different way by being rude to teachers and my colleagues in the sixth form; I would detest their authority and try to undermine it and in doing so would undermine myself. At the age of 19 I managed to get work in the Inner London Education Authority but would always be undermining myself; I could never hang on to friendships or relationships and would be attracted to girls who would hit me or who would want to get off with other men in front of me. I went to teacher training college at the age of 22 but was seriously disturbed there because I just did not like anybody and I did not like teaching. I suffered serious depression after I left, with symptoms of anxiety, depression and depersonalisation.

I think my approach to self-annhialation has been a case of messing around with thoughts of it, rather than having any real means and opportunity of doing it, apart from my strange attempts at trying to electrocute myself at the age of 15. I had to have the thoughts to comfort and control the terrible pain that I have gone through with the maniac parents.

The kind of parenting that I have been through has caused me to feel unwanted and unloved all my life: I do not relate well – I get pretty paranoid from time to time and although I do not suffer from active suicidal thoughts most of the time, I do have the occasional one. The last time I had these flashes was when I was training to be an RPI on South West Trains. I was at Woking Station and I felt the loneliest and most depersonalised that I have done for years. The railways can be an awfully lonely and alienating environment and I think that this is why it can be the suicide place of choice for people – most recently a 14 year old took her own life on the station not half a mile from where I live up here in Bitterne.

I did not have to be bullied at school to know what it is to suffer from this dreadful sense of de-realisation, I was bullied all my life by my father who in turn has spent most of his life in an alcoholic stupor; counselling has gone some way to restoring the status quo, even though it is possible that people like me will never get over the sense of de-personalisation and alienation that having such an abusive parent will cause.

That is why I think it is essential that the way we treat our kids must be first and foremost on the mental health agenda and why we must try and stop people becoming depersonalised and alienated within this society. Every tragedy that we see with a juvenile suicide is on the same level as seeing the body of a child washed up on a beach whilst trying to escape Syrian mass murder. I therefore believe that suicide in this country is an issue that we must try and tackle and we must try and stop turning our backs on mental health issues.

Donald Hedges. 6th September 2015.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Good God, its Gove

I normally dont write on these pages very much, due to weight of illness and studying. But I feel that I must put pen to paper about the antics of Michael Gove, otherwise known as the Secretary of State for Education. Whilst he claims that he is not directly responsible for the downgrading of students taking exactly the same summer examinations as those students took in January, we need to take a raincheck on his claims. Thats because Gove has famously pronounced upon grade inflation; he has claimed himself to be the enemy of grade inflation. So whether or not he has directly influenced Ofqual and AQA, its an odds on chance that someone, somewhere, has listened to him and has moved the grade boundaries mid-way through a cadre of students. Whats politically interesting about this, looking at things in the round, is that this is a political attempt to put the clocks back educationally, to stop pupils in their tracks, very much as the Tories consistently tried to do during the 1950's and 1960's where only students from grammar or public schools ever went to university. He wants to turn back the clock on the progress which has been made, of actually giving the young people something when they leave school, which people of my generation never had. Those of us who went to secondary moderns were not allowed to gain O and A Levels and its a sheer fluke that I ever did. I dont want Gove and other Tories putting back the clock forty years and keeping on trying to be elitist. Thats the trouble with putting public school boys in the House of Commons; they carry on their elitist predelictions. I am sorry to say that if Gove is so unknowledgeable about the very real efforts of our youth to gain qualifications, then he needs to resign and take his bigoted views with him.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The RBS scandal

I think that the whole thing is a seminal event in terms of morality, ethical behaviour and responsibility. The fact that this bank has been allowed to grow and leverage its balance sheet to the tune of £1.2TN, the same as the entire GDP of the United Kingdom means that here is a corporation wishing to encompass riches, power and influence far beyond the dreams of avarice. This is something out of a fairy story, or something that would have been encompassed in one of Shakespeare's tragedies. The fact that RBS wished or wanted to be bigger than everyone and everything around it, is very worrying, especially for those of us (and that means everyone) who had to pick up the bits when RBS developed a spanner in the works. Of course one could use a bank to buy up every bad debt, useless customer and subprime asset that one could and then hook it up to that bank's balance sheet. This is what in effect RBS have done, with very little constraint. They in fact do not possess sufficient sense of morality and ethics to do the opposite. Nonetheless, I dont think it is hysterical for the public to pick up on the wide sense of dis-ease that this situation has caused. This is an institution which shows that it simply does not care for the traditions and mores that have made the United Kingdom what it is. This is an institution that wants to be more than the sum of any morality or decency with which it was created. In short, it is an institution that wants to own everything, to boss everything and ultimately to get its own way so that it is bigger than any developed nation on earth. If people dont find that sense of meglomania extremely worrying, than I do; thats why comparisons with Mussolini and others are being made at this time. The truth of the matter (if thoroughly examined) is that the banks, instead of being the servant, now seek to become the master. We cant let them do it and thats why the stripping of Fred Goodwin's knighthood was an extremely good thing in the sense that we should not be pinning gongs to the pompous breasts of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Great Press Scandal (or not) as you may think

The Great Press Scandal (or not) as you may think…….

The Great Press Scandal of 2011, or not, as you may think. This story starts somewhere in April 2011 and carries on kicking and screaming, until the prorogation of the Parliaments in July 2011. It has its seeds in the imprisonment of two gentlemen from the News of the World in 2008, or thereabouts, after having been convicted of phone hacking. Following an investigation headed by John Yates, AC Counter Terrorism at the yard, there was, he stated, no further need to investigate these matters. Everybody thought that was the end of the scenario but the Guardian newspaper kept on delving into the matter and eventually unearthed the factoid that many thousands had had their voicemails intercepted, including Milly Dowler, a schoolgirl from Surrey, who had been abducted and tragically murdered. To make the story that bit more complex, the editor of the newspaper News of the World had secured a position at 10 Downing Street after having retired from that newspaper and an AC from New Scotland Yard had gone on to be a journalist with this, or a similar newspaper. As more and more revelations came out, there was a worry that the Prime Minister David Cameron had made a mistake in not checking out Andy Coulson, former editor of the News of the World, before employing him at 10 Downing Street.

More and more revelations came out; the senior police officers involved in the scenario were invited to attend a Select Committee for Home Affairs – Sir Paul Stephenson, Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police appeared before that committee. He resigned his position in July 2011. John Yates, AC Counter Terrorism also appeared before that committee. He also resigned. Various people also resigned from News International, the conglomerate who produced the news of the world. One gentleman resigned from the Wall Street Journal after 52 years service. Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International in London, also resigned. Rupert Murdoch flew into London and closed the News of the World after 168 years.

After a series of smoke and fires within the precincts of Parliament, including hours of televised select committees, we are now no nearer into knowing, who, how, what reasons for, when, or how many? These are all forensic things that need to be known before one can make any judgment on what really happened. The Police (MPS) are further investigating the matter. They now have 50 officers on the case, although only 136 of the victims hacked have been notified and there are many thousands of victims yet to be spoken to by police. For all the sound and fury of this matter, there has been precious little progress made and it is quite significantly worrying that this is supposed to be one of the biggest scandals in British life since 1936, yet so little has been done, apart from a parade of MPs lining up to do a circus act within the chamber or the Select Committees. Oh and amusingly enough, Rupert Murdoch was assaulted with a custard pie made of shaving foam whilst speaking in the committee rooms. He stated that his appearance was the most humbling day of his life.

Nonetheless, what progress? None that I can discern; no forensic questioning on the part of anybody. No real attempt to establish a global version of the scenario with facts – who did what, what happened, when did it happened, where did it happen, who were the principals involved. All this is meat and drink to a police investigation, yet everybody else decided to turn Sherlock Holmes to try and investigate the matter, without any legal qualifications, or forensic training in police interview and investigation techniques. It makes me so sad that we as a country could have been so silly as not to know that this was all bread and circuses. Someone has said that all of these “investigations” such as the speeches in Parliament and the select committees have been a put up job so that the establishment could jump out of the way of the boulder which was coming towards them. Is there more than a grain of truth in what this person has said. Only you can decide.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Of bread and circuses

The questions have been asked: should the Murdochs resign? I dont know about the Murdochs resigning; I have not seen one of any of the people involved doing anything sensible about anything really, except create bread and circuses.

We are no further forward in getting to the root of this matter than we were years ago when this first started. Thats because no-one is taking a long forensic look at it and asking the relevant probing questions and then drilling down until the evidence points in a direction, then following that direction.

All thats been achieved has been a few MPs saying "Please James and Rupert, did you know anything". Answer "No, I did not". "Oh, okay then, thanks awfully!"

Isn't there something so terribly British about the polite but consistent way we fail within our Parliament and Press to get to the vital points of evidence that underpin these enquiries. But the search for truth is not a circus, nor a zoo. These past two weeks have been a spectacle in truth evasion and no-one acquainted with the search for real evidence would be fooled by it in any way whatsoever.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Lack of forensic skilling lets down Parliamentary Select Committee

Various commentators have said that a lack of forensic questioning let down the Parliamentary Select Committees to day, in dealing with Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Yates, Brooks and the two Murdochs. I am inclined to agree with this view.

Everyone involved in these sorts of processes knows that when such an interview is taking place, you start first with a global scenario of facts; then you break that scenario down into separate strands, where you pursue the line of questioning down the strand where-ever the evidence goes, or create sub strands and go down those as far as the evidence goes. Eventually what you get is a series of spidergraphs with an answer at the end of each one. Then you join up the spidergraphs to get the whole of a reconstructed picture which you have obtained by interview evidence. And each of these spidergraphs are started off by asking the key questions.

I noticed this failure of forensic intensity especially when they were interviewing AC John Yates; I kept waiting for them to ask him what he did with the evidence that he had before him. He never answer that questioned because it was not asked.

Example: Assistant Commissioner, dealing with the bags of evidence which were kept at New Scotland Yard, in Room 233 and pertaining to the phone hacking, can you tell me what happened to those bags of evidence?

You are showing that you know where the bags are, what room they were in and at what time and what action was taken? And you know that because you draw together previous strands of the interview to get to that point.

The Select Committee never got anywhere near it; sadly they just did not know how to question Yates. And thats just one example of how they failed to question.

So we can only hope that the police and the IPCC do a bit better than MPs. Thats my sincere hope?

Sir Paul Stephenson at the Select Committee

19 Jul 2011:
I have seen the Sir Paul Stephenson interview by the Select Committee. To be honest I think it was deeply flawed; I would have thought that an interview drew together lines of enquiry which had been well thought out and that there was a logical corollary between each strand of the enquiry and the next. But here was a scatter gun and accusative/confrontational approach by this committee which did not seem to get to the point of anything. Furthermore, they were asking him questions which required a greater grasp of detail that the Commissioner possessed and to be frank I dont think it was the Commissioner's fault. Even to the extent of the manpower numbers involved in MPS, which I think were nearer 45,000 and not the 50,000 which Sir Paul stated. I dont think overall that the Select Committee carried out a professional interrogation of the character. I dont think they are going to get any sort of overview of the police from what has been stated.

I am further disappointed to know that the Committee dont realise that the police are very highly trained, far more highly trained than any group of Members of Parliament; these are the people that we expect to extract details of serious crime. Having said that, I just think that Sir Paul bought them and sold them with a smile on his face and I am ashamed to say that I just dont think they are any further forward than when they started.

A shameful and amateurish performance on the part of our politicians. Why am I not surprised.