Mental Health and Suicide - the appointment of the "Suicide Prevention Minister"

By Garry Spencer

12/10/2018 I normally write a weekly news review piece on Sunday for this LibDems in France site. However, this week, following the appointment of the government of a "Suicide Prevention Minister, I feel compelled to write this piece in addition as I have personal experience of the pain and anguish arising from the suicide of family or friends.

On Wednesday the government named a “Suicide Prevention Minister” - Jackie Doyle-Price - who once famously said in 2014 “I would rather jump off Beachy Head than join UKIP”

I do not want to comment on her flippant remark because it is obvious it was not meant in any bad taste, it was just an off-the-cuff remark, however I want to share with you my very direct experience with suicide and the resulting trauma and shock.

My brother committed suicide some 35 years ago. He was 6 years older than me and 8 years older then our sister.

I will not go into his personal reasons. It was my mother who found him.

To give support, my sister and I returned to the family home. As I came to understand, the problems for those who remain is the isolation.

As a family, we had only each other to help us through - no outside support..

I remember people, aware of the situation, who would cross the road. In the immediate aftermath, we could not even talk about it to our wider family.

In business I was an IFA (Independent Financial Adviser). During my working life, I encountered two other suicide incidents.

The first was a client I was acquianted with, on and off, from when he was young. He first worked and lived in a farm cottage. As life went on, he started working for himself and also at Gatwick airport.

One day, I had a call from his sister to my office, informaing me that David had hung himself a few days earlier and asking for help with his affairs.Shocked, I extended condolences and agreed to do so.

My mind immediatley cast back to the suicide of my brother, I sat back in my chair and thought: I knew exactly how they were feeling.

Although I did not know his sister, I rang her back about ten minutes later to ask if I could come to see her and her mum and take them for lunch. I wanted to let them know that I knew how they felt.

I have to say we all cried together with grief and laughter, drinking and talking about that wonderful man that was their close relative.

The second - and hopefully last close brush- with suicides is very apposite to the Suicide Minister's quote and appointment. But no idle words here.

In 2008 my client Mike threw himself off of Beachy Head and successfully killed himself.

Mike was 51. I had known him for several years and thought him a nice, decent father and husband. A kind, considerate man who loved his family.

His suicide made the National press and TV, so what I am telling you is in the pulic domain.

Mike was an IT manager at Sussex Police headquarters. He had worked for the force for 17 years without any problems and was really well-liked in his department.

Miss Margaret Gardiner (aged 53) joined as head of Information Systems the summer before Mike's demise. In a statement from Mike’s wife, she said that within days of Miss Gardiner’s arrival, the new head had sent all staff a slide show about her previous role as director with British Gas. Amongst other things, this detailed how she had made 1000 workers redundant...

His family told the inquest that Mike’s confidence had subsequently been destroyed and he became terrified he would lose his job.

In a note to his wife he wrote his work “had become a battle, a battle I can’t win”. He added he needed peace.

Mike was bulled at work by this woman. She resigned from her post 3 days after his death and took early retirement after leaving Sussex Police.

Mike left behind a wonderful family, that I helped through the pitfalls of claiming on Mike's assurances.

He had been a really well respected person within his community. His wife and children are wonderful, caring people. Though I sold my business over 9 years ago, we still keep in touch. Through the sorrow of this event, I have made good lif-long friends.

This last bit is only known to me and to his family, but I feel able to share it with you all now. On the morning of his suicide, Mike - purporting to be setting out for work - asked his wife for change. She thought it was for the coffee machine. As became clear, it turned out to be because he did not want his wife to have a fine from his parking at Beachy Head. He loved his family but was in despair.

These are desperate measures taken, by people I have known, who have found that they been unable to solve their own personal crises. Any appointment that helps must be a good thing - but better to channel many more funds into the Mental Health Services and Support systems in order, perhaps , to be able to help people such as these before they commit to that terrible final step.

The niggling, never-ending Worry that is Brexit

A view from Christina Hendy-Jones, Data Officer, LibDems in France

My father was a pacifist and a conscientious objector in the second world war.  My mother the daughter of an army surgeon – a man dedicated to saving lives and not destroying them

I was borne after the war, so did not live through any of its immediate horrors. My life has only known peace in the countries I have lived in.

My childhood saw many marvels – we flew to the moon - we conquered polio – and the invention of colour television brought the wonders of other nations into our rooms. My childhood also brought the original birth of what was later to become the European Union – set up partially to "make war unthinkable and materially impossible"

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My parents showed me how, through such union, nations working together can preserve peace. How they bring mutual benefit in the same way as the very different members of our family lived well alongside each other despite some radical differences of thought.

I was encouraged to make my own decisions.

At the age of 10, based on reading schoolgirl tales, I decided that I wanted to go to boarding school. My mother paused a moment and then told me that, should I fail my impending 11-plus,  they would consider sending me to boarding school. If I passed, I would go to the local High School.

Even at that age, I found this troubling. Should I fail deliberately to achieve my ambition? Or should I do what I knew was right, try my hardest, pass the 11-plus and go to High School?

I am struck by the parallel with the UK’s emotive vote to leave the EU. As far as us, Jo Public, were concerned, the decision was based on hear-say, on the news-bytes we saw and the public influencers we cared to listen to. I think we are all agreed that the referendum was flawed in many ways.

Yet here we are, faced with fact after fact emerging that things are not as we hoped, spending millions hoping to get it “right”.

It was an immature decision – just as mine would have been had I stubbornly pushed on with it.

My five children, in Britain, see rising poverty and homelessness in their areas. They see neighbour turning against neighbour, strife, tension, underlying fear of what is happening in their lives. From my distance, it seems remarkably like the Germany of the 1930s. Some regret the way they voted - but most have simply hardened their stance.

My personal reality now – having moved to France three years ago – is one of constant worry for myself and for my family. We have seen our pension steadily drop in value through the exchange rate to levels far lower than we ever planned for in our cautious figures. But worse, our future is still precarious – empty reassurance from the government. Many have called us bargaining chips, I see us more as a throw-away commodity along with all the immigrants to Britain, whose livelihoods and devotion to the UK are now being tossed to the wind as it suits the negotiators.

Now are the final hours for the UK to pull itself up by its bootstraps, reflect and think again now that so much more facts and figures and deliberate manipulations have tumbled into our knowledge of “What is Brexit?”

Should we not be allowed another say? We have matured now.

Tales of "Conversion"

HOW I BECAME A MEMBER OF THE LIBDEMS IN FRANCE- 
From Committee member Kay Braine

First, I have a confession to make: all my professional working life I was not motivated to become involved in any political movement, although I always voted and usually Liberal Democrat. That being said, my core values and attitudes certainly are reflected in the LibDem policies.

However, 8 years ago I moved to live in France (to retire here) and began to realise that being European really mattered to me.

Then came the Referendum and the subsequent Brexit proposition. Even more I saw that the Liberal Democrats were truly the UK party with a real belief in Europe. The realisation came to me that perhaps I should be doing more.
You could say it was time to put my money where my mouth is - I would prefer “where my heart is”. Hence, about a year ago I joined the Party.

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I have a confession - during my professional life,
I was not motivated to become involved in any political movement

As a member I was surprised to receive information about the LibDem group here in France and news of the forthcoming AGM in Poitiers.

I attended the AGM last year really just to find out more but was genuinely amazed by the commitment and industry of the members of the Executive to formally address the concerns of British people now living in France. I was happy to be co-opted to the organisation and continue to be impressed with the energy and leadership of the Executive Group and hope to contribute to the obvious momentum established.

As a belated convert, blazing with the zeal of the newly enlightened, I ask you-


I live in the Mayenne, department 53, but close to the Orne and Sarthe and as a belated convert, in true “convert style” I ask:
If you too feel strongly about:-

  • the political mayhem (no apology for the pun);
  • the loss of voting rights;
  • the depreciation of Britain;
  • the possibility of having to jump over increasingly high hurdles to maintain your European rights

AND you have similar minded friends who, like I was, are not in the party -

ENCOURAGE them to take this positive step to join us and together we will fight to maintain our rights and to restore the sort of society we value.

FUTURE GENERATIONS will thank you.


Post-Referendum Trauma

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Post referendum Trauma - From our Chair, Paul fisher

The dust is beginning to settle but we are still tripping over the debris.  We now need clarity of vision; something that has not been evident from before the decision to call a referendum was made. 

The Parties have failed to provide leadership and vision

There was no plan and there is still no plan other than to revert to the dogmatic rhetoric of the past forty years. 

The difference now is that the roof has been pulled down and the edifice of the United Kingdom has not only fractured but has collapsed; this will become ever more evident over the forthcoming months as we emerge from the ruins and visibility increases. 

Everything has changed despite survivors clinging onto the relics of the past.  There has been a quantum shift in everything; the paradigm has changed.  The challenge is both to recognise the new situation and resolve the conflicts thus presented sensibly and pragmatically.  The catalyst of the referendum has surprised everyone.

The political realignment now emerging, but not yet recognised by the main stream UK political parties, needs to happen.  The 20th century bipolar left/right Labour/Conservative divide has consumed itself in failure, infighting and egoism.  The Parties have failed to provide leadership and vision, are at war with themselves and have promoted self interest to the point of incredibility.  

People are mere chattel to be regulated and their movement controlled. 

On the right, the dogmatic rhetoric of freedom has been sacrificed to the mantra of “control”.  The narrative is 'no' to the free market and 'yes' to cartel market; an inversion of their dogmatic rhetoric.  People are mere chattel to be regulated and their movement controlled.  Products and services are to be controlled by international cartels for the lowest price and without regard to the social cost.  Money is to be controlled by the cartel market casino and debased, creating debit and instability. 

On the left, individual entrepreneurial spirit is to be crushed by inefficient and over bearing government.  Products and services are tolerated but only as part of a grand alliance between the State customer and the Corporate giant controlled by an elite which harvests the taxes of enslaved citizens whose only choice is between State or Corporate dependency; the equivalent of modern day slavery.  Money no longer has value as it is at the whim of the industrial/state machine to control.  The gravy train is all embracing; so the Socialists have embraced capitalism and the Tories have abandoned the free market. 

The referendum spawned the protesting extremes consisting of both Corbynites and Kippers thus splitting both main political parties down the middle effectively providing the springboard for these two 20th century dinosaurs to consume themselves and each other.  Failure to exploit this opportunity will only prolong the agony of the death throes.

Now is the time to reform the very essence of money

If ever there were a time when the reform of money were to be recognised, it is now.  The last 100 years of relentless fractional banking has worked its magic;  hedge funds are the euphemism for junk bonds, stock and bond markets markets are the euphemism for big business gambling or casinos and the denial that cyberspace is here and totally unregulated is manifest in the electronic “printing” of money which has destroyed wealth and created debt.  It has contributed to the collapse of truly free markets. 

Debt creates multibillionaires from the ether whilst simultaneously plunging vast swathes of humanity into debt.   Now is the time to reform the very essence of money to again become a true store of value, a free market means of exchange and accounting unit. 

The consequence of casino banking has been one of the factors which has created this maelstrom; the lesson is to grasp the nettle, as the world's 5th largest economy, and make the condition of joining the first and only post fractional banking currency in the world; a totally reformed pan European currency.

Social cohesion in the UK is disintegrating in front of our eyes now that the catalytic effects of the referendum emerge.  Rich versus poor, privileged versus impoverished, celebrity versus ignored, mansioned versus homeless, metropolitan versus regional, posh versus chav, educated versus ignorant, articulate versus inarticulate, informed versus misinformed, young versus old … the list is endless.

Social cohesion in the UK is disintegrating in front of our eyes

However, the real confusion is nationality; what is the difference between being British and English?  This fault line is reinforced when overlaid with referendum voting patterns and the consequent constitutional crisis.  The hegemony of the majority English over the other 3 less numerous, yet equally legitimate nationalities, no longer stacks up; it has become meaningless.  If the truth were told, it has always been thus but a traditional fudge always prevailed and this evidently is no longer the case. 

The whole toxic immigration debate is the fifth dimension here.  London has over two hundred nationalities represented in its population; small numbers but infinitely diverse and global.  The nexus of the impact of globalisation is represented in London, not now only a national capital but in reality a global megalopolis, and growing.  It has an infinite appetite for people.  To deliver London's construction programme 60,000 artisans are needed now. 

Germany is not concerned about their so called “immigration crisis” because their need is for half a million additional people this year. 

The problem of social cohesion is home grown; it reflects the inability of society to adapt to vast global forces which need to be tapped rather than rejected with no plan for failure other than oblivion.  Taking back control to preserve indigenous low paid jobs will ensure that British workers keep their low grade and paid jobs for life whilst expertise is imported as required; that is called a low wage, third world economy! 

Continued interconnection of an ever smaller world, previously heralded as the “global village” is the key technological driver; cyberspace is here and its impact is omnipresent.  Moore's Law scythes through the previously accepted pace of technological change and it is the UK's failure to embrace this new global reality that has left swathes of the country wallowing in the debris of the first industrial revolution.  Communications in cyberspace, transport, business or governance have lagged demand and capability.  High speed internet has been slow to embed.  Road, rail, air and sea transport for people and goods is unfit for purpose. 

Clogged roads, no rail strategy, insufficient airport capacity and ebbing seaport infrastructure

Business has not been nibble to meet new challenges and governance has been slow to adopt the electronic age let alone cyberspace.  All this is rumbling along in piecemeal fashion; clogged roads, no rail strategy, insufficient airport capacity and ebbing seaport infrastructure compared to a pan European plan for all of this.  The 30-year delay in deciding the additional London runway, the flawed railway upgrade that does not include Scotland, Wales or Ireland contrasts starkly chimes sadly with the inability of government to upgrade governance to meet the demands of the cyber economy; the failure to administer the Health Service with a pan enterprise data base and processes to match. 

Failed technology application is the real failure to invest in Britain’s future.

The real fault line in the UK post-BREXIT is the constitutional and legal Armageddon which awaits.   This is not about nationalism, it is about rational governance which is fit for purpose.  It is about consistent legal structures within the Nation State. 

The best example of this utter mess which has resulted from tactical tinkering rather than strategic thought and planning is exemplified by the “Mid Lothian Question”.  The real problem is that there is no English Parliament and not the popular view that the smaller component nations do not have enough localised power.  The lack of a consistent unified governance structure is at the heart of these divisions. 

... exacerbated by an arcane and archaic voting system specifically adapted to support a bipolar political landscape

In this strategy desert everything is possible except a workable solution which is exacerbated by an arcane and archaic voting system specifically adapted to support a bipolar political landscape.  Having no firm foundation to view local constitutional issues, it is virtually impossible to embrace supranational concepts of democratic governance.  How can a nation which has a totally undemocratic and fully appointed Upper House even conceive of a democratic tripodal international governance construct?  The equation is unsolvable.

Britain will emerge as a further diminished place

In summary, BREXIT has focused upon the depth of Britain's bankruptcy; a country which cannot come to terms with globalisation and its impact upon itself and its position in the world.  Too much time trying to punch above its weight, it has now over reached itself. 

Once BREXITEER euphoria has run its course, destroyed its proponents and architects, Britain will emerge as a further diminished place. 

Historians will see it as the Waterloo of all campaigns following on neatly from Suez, end of century adventurism in the Middle East and indeed, in the longer cycle, a repetition of the colonial wars in North America, South Africa and Afghanistan. 

They say that pride comes before a fall; in this case total arrogance precedes disaster and oblivion.