A number of years ago I heard a play on Radio 4 whose title I can’t remember but I suspect it was called High Valour. It was about a couple who emigrated to Australia where the husband hoped to work for his elder brother’s business. The business had some sort of initiation for ‘serious’ employees called High Valour, the details of which I can’t remember but it involved long hours, time away, a lot of drinking and not much family time. Needless to say, the wife didn’t approve, especially when the older brother’s wife told his wife that she tolerated his use of prostitutes while working away: “he uses a clean whore, and always tells me he loves me”. The elder brother told the husband to adopt the same practice of telling his wife he loved her when going out without her, and towards the end of the play, his wife confronted him and reminded him that the last thing he had said to her was that he loved her: “when you tell me you love me, I don’t want to have to wonder why”.
“I love you” can mean exactly what it says. It can also hide other intentions, in certain contexts. Until last Sunday I had an acquaintance on Twitter who has bipolar disorder and some other health problems. Earlier in the day she’d posted that she felt the worst she’d done for ages and that it would take a miracle to get through that day. Just before 6pm she posted a tweet saying “I love you all <3” and then nothing for several hours. After three hours I called the police; I knew her name from publicity about the 2014 campaign for beds for women at the local psychiatric unit, and roughly where she lived, and told them she was known to the local mental health services. They called and it seems she was fine, although for some reason they also sent an ambulance to her house a few hours later. Looking at her timeline the last couple of days, it appears she did take an overdose and was at the hospital some time that day or night.
However, she was furious about someone having called the police, saying “So I guess I can’t be honest on Twitter now either. I didn’t even say I was unsafe”. Three days later someone messaged her to tell her it had been me, and she and others began tweeting that I had called the police on several other people in the past and that I also sent the ambulance around. This wasn’t true. I did not call the ambulance; the police must have done this. I called the police regarding a Twitter acquaintance on one previous occasion in 2014, when someone posted very clear suicidal intent. It turned out that they had been using a pseudonym so my call had no effect, but the person (who was a psych inpatient) took advice from other online friends and told the staff how she was feeling; her leave was cancelled and she was still alive to make accusations against me on Twitter last Wednesday. I made a blog post about it (without mentioning any names, of course) at the time and, when the woman involved saw it, she told me she was blocking me as she wanted to be able to “be honest” with her Twitter friends.
One of the people who attacked me on Twitter last Wednesday for calling the police was Charlotte Walker, AKA the Bipolar Blogger. In between the day I called the police and the blog entry that led to me falling out with her and her friend, I told her on Twitter that I had called the police but had got nowhere and that is when I discovered that the name she was using was fake. Walker told me that she had previously called the emergency services on another Twitter friend. So she didn’t object when I told her I’d called the police, as the screenshot on the left demonstrates. However, after I was told I was blocked after posting that blog entry, I tweeted that she was “one less (sic) needy stranger to feel responsible for”, thinking she was no longer reading my tweets, which is the whole idea when you block someone. However, she hadn’t, and brought the tweet to her friends’ attention, which is when Walker first had a go at me about that and about my blog post. It was an unkind thing to say, but I didn’t know her (I thought I knew her name, but was wrong about even that) and had made me worried about her without there being anything I could do. Of course, being friends with someone means you might sometimes be in that situation, but it was she who decided to block me and I thought “good riddance to her and her drama”.
I looked at the the tweets last Wednesday in response to the revelation that I called the police. Amid a few generic insults some people were saying I must have “white knight” or “hero syndrome”, that my blog and timeline are full of my campaigning for others’ rights. Actually, most of my campaigning is in some way connected to abuse in residential care environments, which I have personal experience of, and I consider a lot of the people I’ve met or become acquainted with online through campaigning as friends (I had disabled friends before I started seriously campaigning on disability issues — not just through this blog, I hasten to add — in 2010). But getting help for someone in danger, which includes someone in a mental health crisis who posts what looks like a threat of suicide, is not being a hero (it doesn’t put you in danger or take much effort to make a phonecall); it’s just what you do and one of the people who joined in criticising me for it last week has done so herself. Other people may have judged differently and some weren’t glued to Twitter all evening, but I’d like to think most people wouldn’t do nothing if they thought someone was in danger and they could do something.
Image source: The Victorian Web.
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