Mind Yer Heid is an independent, nonprofit mental health magazine, publishing personal, professional and hybrid stories of mental health.

Open letter to Jane

It’s quite incredible how fast the adrenaline made you run last night.

You raced from the Market Street entrance of Waverley, through the upper hall, past me as I reached the top of the stairs, into the middle of the mezzanine hall and up on to the railings. You leant forward.

I normally exit Waverley at Calton Road but something drove me to go a different way last night. I dropped my bags and raced to you. A member of railway staff and a policeman who just happened to be there reached you first. You were pulled down and lay screaming and recoiling on the floor. Panic ensued from every direction. There were a lot of hi-vis jackets and suddenly your partner was there. He dropped your dog - he tried to speak to you - he saw the police - he ran.

You’d dropped one of your two bags and I picked it up to take to you, hanging back so as not to surround you, but also conscious of being the only other woman nearby. You found some strength and jumped up. You left your bag and raced back the way you had come, the policeman and railway staff hot on your feet.

I paused. I was halfway between your bags and mine. I went over to yours. Some of the items in your bag were now strewn across the floor: purse, shoe, medicine… Quetiapine.

Although your partner was clearly under the influence of drugs and I had caught a whiff of alcohol as you ran, I was pretty sure you were having a psychotic episode rather than having had taken too much of any recreational drug. Quetiapine confirmed it.

Quetipaine is an atypical antipsychotic. It’s used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I knew you needed to be treated with understanding and care and I was worried that the people in your immediate vicinity didn’t know how to do this.

I gathered your two bags - a large Sainsbury’s carrier bag and a small handbag - my own bags, and I moved in your direction. I found you cowering on the floor at the doorway of a lift, now surrounded by four policemen and two railway workers who were also in fluorescent jackets.

I tried to get the attention of a staff member to tell them about your condition. It was panic and noise, people talking and shouting over each other: ‘CALM DOWN PLEASE CALM DOWN’.
‘SHE’S SUICIDICAL’, I exclaimed.

I got closer. I caught your eyes, they stayed on mine and I stepped in. I asked the closest policeman to let me try. He desperately agreed. I took your hand. You didn’t resist. A more senior policeman addressed me and asked me to step away. I refused. I asked you your name and you asked me mine.

‘Rosa,’ I said.

‘Rosa help me I can’t breathe,’ you replied.

‘Can I sit here?’ I asked.

‘Yes,’ you said.

I told you that you had dropped your medicine, I asked if you needed it, you said yes and thanks and you’d taken some. I asked how long it would take to kick in and you said ten minutes. ‘Well, you’ll need to sit with me and ride it out for ten minutes,’ I told you.

‘PLEASE CALM DOWN,’ the policeman shouted.


You put your hands over your ears. ‘IT’S TOO LOUD. I need my inhaler.’

 ‘Look at me, Jane, I think you’re having a panic attack and that you can do this without an inhaler. I need you to slow down your breathing.’

 ‘CALM DOWN,’ repeated two of the four policemen.

 ‘Don’t let them near me - don’t let them near me - I can’t go to hospital again - I’ve lost my babies - where’s Gary? He’s my fucking carer but he doesn’t care - he’s going to prison - they took my babies away - I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t.’ And you screamed and screamed.

 ‘Don’t let that man touch me - I had to go to court before - the policeman took me and he pulled my thong up by back and I was black and blue and it was HORRIBLE DON’T LET HIM NEAR ME.’

 ‘OK Jane, OK. These are different policemen,’ I said. ‘And I’m going to stay here next to you. They know not to touch you.’


 ‘They ran at me! I’m not a risk I’m telling you now I am not a risk to myself or others I am not a risk to myself or others! I wasn’t going to jump! I just wanted some air - I couldn’t breathe - he kept saying my name, over and over.’



 ‘I have a duty of care.’

 You were desperately texting him. Asking him to come back. I saw that you had saved his name as ‘Don’t Answer Him’.

I overheard a policeman mention an ambulance. I slipped over to him. ‘If an ambulance is coming, please ask them to switch their siren off as they get close.’

‘Oh,’ he responded. ‘Oh, yes, oh I suppose so, OK.’

You were screaming and crying and then calming and hugging me then calling the policeman a cunt and asking for a cigarette.

The senior policeman appeared high above us as we sat on the floor. ‘CALM DOWN AN AMBULANCE IS COMING,’ he told us.

‘A FUCKING AMBULANCE NO NO NO NO NO NO NOT AGAIN PLEASE NO DON’T TAKE ME AWAY I can’t get in it, I won’t - it’ll be abduction. You’ll have to arrest me.’

Well done, I thought. Well done.

One of the four policemen took his hat off.

 ‘Jane,’ I said. ‘Jane, they’re coming. And let’s be calm when they arrive.’

I asked the policemen to send the paramedics, calmly, to us and then we could consider entering the ambulance.

The ambulance arrived over an hour later.  We’d been through every emotion by that point. You’d screamed and cried and shouted expletives at strangers: ‘I’VE BEEN LIKE THIS MY WHOLE LIFE I CAN’T SWITCH IT OFF PEOPLE ALWAYS STARE AT ME... STOP FUCKING STARING AT ME.’

You hugged me, you apologised (no need, by the way). At one point you even hugged one of the policemen, which you said was a first!

You were so vulnerable. And no one knew what to do. They only thing anyone could do was to be calm and gentle and listen. To accept that you couldn’t switch it off, to just be with you. The only thing any of the policemen were doing was telling you to ‘CALM DOWN.’


Over the two hours we spent together I learned that your one-year-old twins were taken away from you when your partner of seven years was caught with half a kilo of diamorphine. You’re 21 and he’s 30. He’s on bail, he’ll go to prison, and judging by the way he ran from the police, he hasn’t been keeping his nose clean. You’re from the West but have been living in Edinburgh for two years. I don’t know why. You didn’t mention a mum or a dad or any siblings. You have a dog.

You’ve tried to end your life before - the enormous vertical scar on your arm told me that. You knew you shouldn’t mix your medicine with alcohol but you said things were getting on top of you and you were so scared and so angry. You’d been sectioned numerous times before and had always been mentally unwell.

Your babies are living with their gran about a hundred miles away. You haven’t seen them in a while. You feel that you’ve got nothing left. You’ve got nothing left.

After a cigarette that I pilfered for you from some girls outside a bar, you eventually agreed to sit in the ambulance to be assessed. I said I’d wait outside the vehicle, as close as I could.

In the end you refused to go willingly. The police had to put you under a forced section. You were on Market Street and you screamed and screamed and kicked, and ultimately I watched you struggle, face down on the pavement, whilst four men in fluorescent coats held you down and handcuffed you.

They wrestled your kicking form into the box-shaped rear of the police van. You dropped your phone. I put it in your bag, passed it over, and walked away.

You’ve been failed, Jane. So many times. You have a psychiatrist who you had seen the day before but you don’t have a community psychiatric nurse. Your official carer is an addict opiate-dealer. Your babies are gone. Your problems have been clear since early childhood. You evidentially don’t have a close family unit nor do you have a substitute within close, good friends and relationships.

Don’t be ‘sorry’, Jane.  Don’t say ‘I am sorry, I can’t help it, I’m not like this, I am not, I’m sorry, I’m sorry I swore, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ You have nothing to apologise for, Sweet Jane. It’s the rest of us that should be sorry.

I hope you’re going to be OK. I hope you leave that man. But if there isn’t anyone else you can rely on to support you through this illness, then I know you won’t. I hope he gets clean. I hope you get your babies back. I hope your babies don’t experience a fragment of the hardship, terror, pain and horror that you have. I hope they love you and respect you and that you’re able to respect yourself.

Whatever you do, I hope you don’t keep feeling that you’re the one that should be sorry.

Names have been changed for purposes of confidentiality.

Follow Rosa on Twitter: @RMSINNES

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