Why Did You Kill My Dad? 9pm BBC2

Tonight, BBC2 is airing a documentary called ‘Why did you kill my Dad?’. It is made by Julian Hendy, whose father was fatally stabbed by a man with long term mental health problems. He did, as a result of this, do some research about the levels of homicides carried out by those who are mentally ill and presents his findings for the programme – focussing on the failings of the British mental health systems.

His research is said to show that homicides are much higher than ‘official’ figures. The reasons, perhaps, for some of this ‘underplaying’ is explained by Louis Appleby, the ‘Mental Health Tsar who states

“If somebody were responsible for a homicide in which there were multiple victims that would count as one incident from our statistics – so the 50 cases a year are perpetrators, not victims. And, of course, there are a small number of cases where a person commits homicide and then commits suicide so there is no conviction, and those cases aren’t included.”

So this seems to be the way of judging – I don’t think it is an active and deliberate attempt to obfuscate but rather than that the method of gathering information is for different purposes – looking at the perpetrator rather than the victims. If the ‘gathering’ is done for the reasons of delivering and providing services rather than for public protection and/or information.

Paul Jenkins, Chief Executive of Rethink, made the following statement on their website.

Julian Hendy’s documentary raises important issues.  No-one can watch the families talking about their grief without feeling immense sympathy.   However, it only tells a handful of stories, which cannot explain the reality of life for the 630, 000 people with a severe mental illness across the country.  The vast majority are not only normal law-abiding citizens but are more likely to be a victim of violence than a perpetrator.
“We must ask what we can do to prevent these cases, which cause immense trauma to everyone involved. The answer lies not in scaremongering about the likelihood of being attacked, which remains extremely rare. Instead we must design a mental health system that responds when people and their families ask for help and is proactive if people disengage in treatment. A decent system would help our entire society, including the 1 in 4 of us who will experience a mental problem at some point in our lives.

“The documentary comes at an important time. Political parties need to explain now what they will do to give Britain a health system that provides the right treatment for people with severe mental illness at the right time.”

The statement seems to strike a balance between acknowledging the pain and poor service delivery that can lead to homicides while noting the rarity and the much higher propensity to be a victim of violence that those with severe mental illnesses face.

I think there are two aspects that to need to be highlighted there – active engagement and responded to families who raise concerns themselves. Both of these – as everything – require more resources – which requires more money.

I don’t have any doubt that there will be huge gaps in service provision and quality of care highlighted. Because there are huge gaps. Services are limited by finances and not everyone receives a quality of care that they should. I don’t want to defend poor practice by any means but in a world of limited resources choices are made and they are not always the right ones.

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I am not sure if I’ll watch the programme tonight just due to other external factors but will try and catch it on the iPlayer and review it later in the week. In the meantime, I’d be interested in hearing responses to it.

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25 thoughts on “Why Did You Kill My Dad? 9pm BBC2

  1. The real issue for me of this programme is that mental health should be debated properly and fully in parliament, it should be linked to further debates about education, social care and employment and every single member of parliament should be required to sit through all debates that they wheedle out of and so reduce the priority of. Really, health is the most important of all the priorities. We’re a pretty unhealthy lot, who’ve given up on parliamentary democracy and society is really suffering from our managerialitis without any menaingful social vision.

    The reason nothing gets done in mental health work is because social care in all its aspects is contracted out and managed rather than considered an integral part of our daily lives.

    How can groups of well meaning individuals, however well educated, trained or qualified, do anything without a mandate? That’s why professionals are so loath to act to restrict liberty. They can feel that there’s something really dodgy happeneing, particulalry to certain groups in society. The man and woman in the street don’t realise anything until they become victims and then think professionals don’t want to respond.

    It’s really about democracy. Without a social and political debate to raise awareness, and enact socially and culturally meaningful laws, rather than knee jerk reactions (that encourage bullying and victimisation), nothing will happen.

    Joined up working between police and social workers should enable sensible and workable solutions but only if there’s a really informed debate in Parliament on a regular basis, a debate that’s properly progressed and with less sensationalism.

    There seems to be a thin line between perpetrator and victim and although this line appears theoretically in the courts, judges often muse the moot,

    Back in every day life though, the issue of perpetrator and victim of all kinds leads me to think that we really need to debate what we mean by a safe and healthy society and act to make us all safer and healthier.

  2. i am a nurse who nursed Stephen Newton AFTER he had commited the offence, in the medium secure hospital in Bristol. (edited here to protect confidentiality)

    However also there are huge flaws in Avon and Wiltshire NHS Trust. Because they are desperatly trying to gain foundation trust status they are unwisely promoting.
    Basically it has become known in the medium seure that the only way you can be promoted to ward manager is to be coloured non-british regardless of how experienced you are to ‘tick the boxes’. now three qauters of the managers in medium secure are black african non-british men who are also Very dissmissive of female nurses (many whom are far more experienced) compared to the ‘newly appointed’ mangers only qualified for a few years.
    It is a big problem in Bristols medium secure mental health unit presently, aa the hospital is in dire need of ‘experienced’ professionals in charge nurse/ward managers roles.

  3. I agree that Mr Hendy did not set out to deliberately muddy the waters, but unfortunately the documentary was terribly skewed. It presented only one side of the argument, failing utterly to present any form of balance whatsoever. Whilst the technicalities in the program may be accurate, what needed to also be pointed out to the audience was that in the grand scheme of things mentally ill individuals are really not much more likely to be violent that ‘ordinary’ members of a societal populace, and in fact that they are much more likely to be victims, not perpetrators.

    How sad that the tragic death of Mr Hendy’s father will ultimately only end in more stigma and discrimination towards those of us with mental health difficulties.

  4. I haven’t actually watched it yet but still hope to over the next few days. Thanks a lot for your feedback!

  5. I resigned as a support worker last year, after nearly 10 years doing the job I became very stressed mainly due to incidents where service users have stopped taking their meds become very unwell and the CMHT are either unwilling or unable to do anything until the person becomes a “danger to themselves or the public”.

    I agree on the whole it is a rarity, but I have seen how easily the warning signs are ignored. Forensic SU’s have a better time of it, due to community treatment orders where they can be sectioned straight away when they disengage, but its the ones on the 117 sections who disengage and have the violent past that concern me. Surely its better to intervene BEFORE they become a “danger to themselves or the public”.

    Also on the matter of risk assesments, I have been given risk assesments by the CMHT that have been copied and pasted, out of date, and better yet – not been given a risk assesment at all.

  6. The programme argued that violence by mentally ill people is far more common than we think, due to the fact that if there are multiple victims it is still only recorded as one crime. So he argued, proportionally, there is more crime than is actually recorded. However, the same is true for violence by non-mentally ill people which he didn’t point out as it would have ruined the focus of his argument- he also didn’t point out that violence by the mentally ill has reduced consistently year on year over the last ten years. The professionals involved received no chance to defend themselves at all, as the programme focused entirely on the feelings of victims’ families.
    Sadly very biased, won’t have done much at all to reduce stigma- if not the opposite. I can only hope that the programme has helped its maker to come to terms in some way with his personal loss and grief, because it won’t have helped many other people, I fear.

  7. One thing noone has mentioned so far is the personal journey Jonathan Hendry must have travelled to make this film. Hopefully, this is the whole point.

    Unlike the era of Cathy Come Home in the 60s where the whole enlightened establishment was responding to the campaigning journalism of public school and Oxford educated visions of what journalism should be, there is no cultural platform to support the campaign except DIY camapigns like this one.

    Everyone, even politicians are inside reality media now, so much so that in the recent Channel 4 documentary where politicians went onto high rise lost estates it was obvious that they didn’t feel they had any political authority or any real chance of changing anything, they were all very conscious of their own careers, their own reputations and their own safety.

    Perhaps everyone now feels that there is nothing but the media…we all are the media and we are all looking to see ourselves reflected well. People’s lives and deaths are far more complex and richly textured than we are led to believe and until the BBC regains its sense of mission to campaign, to investigate to include and to create a social, cultural and political ground that makes sense to everyone in society we’ll all just be little more than narcississtic gossips criticising things we can’t really see or appreciate.

  8. This was a terrible documentary, and I am disgusted with the BBC for screening this personal journey in scaremongering and the search for closure.

    The documentary sought only to raise the public’s fears of those people unlucky enough to suffer from severe mental illness and couch this in an emotional rollercoaster ride whereby we are made to share the grief of those individuals who have lost a loved one.

    Whilst I have a huge amount of sympathy for the bereaved, and cannot imagine the world of pain they live in, I felt the programme spent too long on focusing on the grief in order to maximise the emotional impact. This caused the viewer to become emotionally involved and thus much more susceptible to the overlying message that the film maker personally wanted to put forward.

    Yes, there are problems with information sharing between trusts and other agencies and yes there are many failing within the system – but the overlying fact remains that people suffering from a mental illness are many times less likely to commit a violent crime than those society would brand as ‘normal’. Statistically it has been proven, in fact, that sufferers are more likely to be the victim than anything else.

    Having worked for a mental health charity for many years, as well as being a past sufferer myself, I know that I would much rather spend a Saturday night amongst a group of mental health service users than the ‘normals’ in a town centre pub. I would feel a hell of a lot safer.

  9. Pingback: TV Review: Why Did You Kill My Dad? « Aethelread the Unread

  10. The answer to the problem is in this statement from your peice
    “The documentary comes at an important time. Political parties need to explain now what they will do to give Britain a health system that provides the right treatment for people with severe mental illness at the right time.”

    A Health system, are the key words, the problem is HEALTH doesn’t OWN Mental Services SOCIAL does, and SOCIAL are not Health Professionals.
    This is the absolute problem. Mental Health is not a social workers domain, it is an absolute health professional domain, when it is PUT BACK, teh situation may change until then, it won’t.

    • Greyarea

      I wander why it is that you imply that MH is purely a social work domain (when it clearly isn’t) The only real area where SW have previously taken the lead was during MHA Assessments (an approved social worker also needed the agreement of two doctors to detain anyone), following the 2007 mental health act the approved social worker was replaced with approved mental health practitioner which means that CPN’s OT’s and psychologists can also train for this role. If anything this piece of legislation shows that social workers role in mental health provision is becoming less central and distinct.

      I also have to pick you up on your assertion that mental health services are ‘owned’ by social services.
      Community mental health services have been integrated between health and social care services for several years and from my experience its is very much led by health rather than social services ( im a social worker employed by a local authority but seconded into a mental health trust and managed by someone with nursing background, and have to adhere to the trusts policies and procedures)
      Within community mental health teams the majority of care coordinators are health professionals (CPN’s, OT’s or psychologists) rather than social workers. Whilst ultimately decisions relating to an individuals treatment often are made by the consultant or team manager (who in my experience more often than not is not a social worker)
      Whilst SW training has little focus on biological model of mental illness, ( such as input of medication, or diagnostic criteria etc) , the knowledge base of law, policy, holistic assessment, care planning, and psycho-social inteventions allows them to make a valuable contribution within multi-disciplinary team.

      Sure its not a perfect profession by any stretch of the imagination and there are many flaws in training, supervising and professional development, but to suggest that mental health is not a social workers domain is just plain onerous

  11. I’m quite distressed by this story. I can’t imagine how awful it must be to have someone I love killed by a stranger, but it has to be said that there are less people killed by people with mental health problems than by people without mental health problems. The sad thing is that Julian, being in the position he is in, has been able to take his own personal story and make it sound like that there is this huge menace to society out there, which doesn’t exist. At one point it is said that in 16 years in Bristol (I can’t remember the exactly number of years) there were at least 22 homicides by people with mental health problems. At the most, this would be about 2 a year. If his assertion is correct that it could be double that, then again it is 4 a year. Yet there are about 90 suicides a year in the Bristol area. Is this less important? Do people who kill themselves deserve less sympathy? How about their families? Of course, suicide is far more stigmatised than homicide. Further there are over 450 deaths a year by drunk drivers in the UK. Why hasn’t there been a film about this? I think the answer maybe that as part of our evolutionary mentality we prefer to identify dangers from outside our own group than within. Stigmatising and discriminating against people from outside of our own group is a natural response, but just like we now accept that racism is wrong, we must address the stigmatising effect of films like this, and the dangers of allowing one persons hurt, sadness and anger, to influence public attitude and Government policy.

  12. Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust notes the comments posted on this site by a nurse who reports to have nursed Stephen Newton after his offence. The Trust would wish to express its concern that a registered nurse is breaching confidentiality in this matter. We would also wish to make it very clear that we will not be associated with the comments made in this statement and dissociate ourselves totally from the racially biased comments made. The Trust has made significant steps toward ensuring that equality and diversity is respected and valued for both staff and service users. We would also wish to point out that our medium secure services have been benchmarked very positively nationally in terms of the quality of services provided. We have every confidence in the quality of our managers who have been appropriately recruited in line with all our agreed policies.

  13. Perhaps I’m making a huge oversimplification here.

    If approximately 700 homicides are committed each year in the UK, the official figures by a process of deduction indicate that 650 of those homicides are committed by people without mental health issues.

    I’d suggest that if you actually take the life of another person, this is an extremely significant indicator of the presence of a serious mental health issue. I realize that some of these homicides may be considered accidental and others “justifiable” (and perhaps need to read more thoroughly the theories on cognitive dissonance). The remaning number of homocides would strongly suggest to me that a mental health issue was present at that time.(..And if actually sane at the time of the homicide, I would suspect mental health problems may result thereafter regardless if accidental, justifiable, or not.)

    Julian’s documentary indicated to me the need to rethink the way in which society deals with mental health (both causes and reactions to). It is clear that we should not accept the current situation, where mental health services seem overwhelmed with the volume of individuals whom are displaying signs of declining mental health. Pouring more money into mental health services seems to led only to accusations of Nanny-State behaviour, increased demand for further additional resources and other areas of public spending having to go without.

    I’d suggest that Julian’s documentary was not about giving the mental health services a “kicking”, nor stigmatizing sufferers of mental health issues, more it about bringing this unacceptable situation to the wider attention of society.

  14. Either we accept we live under a dominant culture that says (Stalinist style) that anyone who acts against our social rules is mentally ill, or we accept that individuals make their own choices (whether determined or free). Point is that if we accept the first point, then the concept of mental illness is useless – we just have people who are awkward, difficult, and on occasion dangerous; also people who refuse to do what they are told without question, who refuse to obey when they disagree with the rule: ‘free-thinkers’ in the broadest application of the word, if you will. Because basically you have just outlined a state in which to disagree or to step out of line is to be de facto mentally ill. Do we live in the best of all possible worlds? When we all agree that we do, then you may have a point.

    Try reading Butler’s Erewhon for an amusing debate on this. Or else, for a laugh, take a listen to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pq28qCklEHc (Gee, Officer Krupke)

    atb D

  15. John, sorry, but that’s just not true. The majority of homocides are not by people with mental health problems, so 650 out of 700 is not correct. It’s actually the minority that are caused by people with mental health problems. The other problem is that ‘mental health problems’ includes people with alcohol and drug problems, which does not mean schizophrenia. Basically, the facts don’t support your view, and I really wish that the media was held accountable for the falsehoods it disseminates. I’m not saying this as some ‘pc’ liberal defending people with mental health problems. I’m a national official statistician and know this area well. This is as bad as saying most paedophiles are gay men, and therefore gay men are paedophiles. This has to be challenged.

  16. The “Officer Krupke” scene seems to indicate the situation is very well understood. A very good encapsulation of the matter. Thanks!

    Correlation vs causation. Ice-cream causes drownings “apparently”. I don’t think I’ve said, “the mentally ill are (all) killers”, I’m saying if you’re a killer, you’re likely to be deemed to suffering from enough of the symptoms of mental illness to be deemed mentally ill. I wouldn’t wish DSM upon people, but David Rosenhan’s experiment and the responses to it should be sufficient to gauge the shades of grey involved. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosenhan_experiment

    Whether it”s the drugs, booze or just plain old narcissism, that has led an individual to kill, I think there is more than enough to be sure that some form of treatment is required. This is why I think that official stat reeks.

    As the documentary pointed out the same factors are identified in the (presumably majority) of inquiries conducted by mental health services upon conviction, yet none of the cases are deemed preventable. That pattern should not be repeated, but is. Either you accept this, or you do not. I don’t think it’s possible to have a foot in both camps.

    For criticisms of the media (which is in my opinion a bigger issue) , I’ll refer you to Ben Goldacre. I think we’re singing from the same song-sheet on that one.

    I don’t think Julian is attempting to pass of his documentary as science, it’s his story and without doubt an emotive one and an important one.

    I would really be interested to know if there is research indicating how many people are expected to be suffering mental illness as a proportion of the population. I’d like to see that “forecast” reconciled against the number of people being actively treated by Mental Health Services. My hypothesis is that those currently receiving treatment (whether public or private) are the tip of an iceberg.

  17. John, you are actually right, no one in their right mind would kill someoneesle, so yes, there must be some form of mental health or emotional problem involved. I think we’re talking cross purposes due to different concepts of mental illness. A life lost is a life lost – as per my previous post I don’t deny the horrific impact of this. Just missing the stabbing at Victoria station by half an hour myself, I can’t imagine the state of mind of people who kill others. We need to prevent all killings, at whatever cost. I no longer wish to continue this debate as it is one that requires much wider knowledge and experience than I have. I never intended to insult either yourself or the poor guy who lost is dad, only to try to put the crimes into a population level perspective, rather than a personal one, which in this case was probably misguided. I would very much like to hear Ben Goldacre’s view on this (I’ve heard him speak on several occasions and I have great respect for him). My only other comment to this debate though is that it is not all down to mental health services. Drug and alcohol services are often commissioned by Local Authorities (I believe, but may be wrong) and are closely linked to the criminal justice system. It possibly would be begtter for ciminal justice services to work closer with mental health services too – they tend to just hand over all responsibility give the nature of people’s problems (I imagine, they don’t see it as their priority area). All statutory services therefore need to be involved to prevent these hideous crimes. With regard to prevalence, 0.4% of the population have a severe mental illness (i.e. those that the media identify as schizophrenia) but it is thought about a quarter may experience depression, anxiety, alcohol problems etc during their lives. I hope you accept my apology. Best wishes P

  18. No offense taken and hopefully none caused.

    A lack of co-ordination/integration across the various agencies is one of the common findings. Balancing this need, with the right to privacy is perhaps more paradoxical.

    So I’m back at Officer Krupke, a model of care that is failing and a suspicion that the media is leading society to an even deeper hole. But I’ll forget about that because I can soothe myself with a nice cup of America’s Top Model/Katie Price/Jade Goody….thank-you media-owners!

  19. Well, the original programme caused plenty of offense, and Jon, while I think I know where you are coming from, I think your reasoning is flawed.

    Mental health/illness doesn’t have some Rubicon separating the well from the ill. There are no lines drawn in the sand. The characteristics that can be exaggerated during times of illness run through every well person too. All this is pretty obvious. Modern practice has in practice, as opposed to DSM theory, moved on a fair way from that bad old dichotomy.

    Where your remarks fall down are in their applicability to the real world. While you point out that you are not saying that mentally ill people are all killers (thank goodness!), you then spin on a ninepence and say that all killers must suffer from MH problems, and it behooves us to identify them to stop it happening again.

    Well that is not going to happen. How on earth do you ‘stop’ these things happening, unless you are going to apply coercive measures to all the mentally-ill that crosses whatever arbitrary line that gets set?

    And all the individuals concerned fluctuate in their degree of wellness or illness? Unworkable, and pretty damn fascist, if you ask me.

    I also take issue with your premise that killing = mentally ill. You mean socially ill. I tried to point this out earlier, but you may have conflated the two terms so thoroughly that you cannot separate them.

    I don’t know – I’m trying to ask in a reasonable fashion.

    And yes, Officer Krupke was a black joke on my part, and I hope, meant ironically by Sondheim too.

    All the best, David.

    (currently not too mad, by the sound of it)

  20. Thank-you David. Dialog is important, even if we appear to be respectfully disagreeing.

    You allege that I say “all killers must suffer from MH”….My words were “…strongly suggest…” and “…you’re likely to be deemed to suffering from enough…”

    Could you please distinguish between “mental Illness” and “social illness” for me? I’m not (yet) distinguishing between the two. I’m particularly interested from the perspective of treatment and how society should address. Is one is addressed & managed via therapy & drugs, whilst the other is addressed via education? After 6 months chipping away at at Richard P.Bentall’s “Madness Explained” I’m expecting that there is no line in the sand and nor are these mutually exclusive.

    I think that stat really falls down when it’s turned around. We should be attempting to reconcile the stats we produce to the real world. To say that approx only 7% (as the official stat indicates and even a mere 14% as Julian would suggest) of all homicides in the UK are committed by the mentally ill, is if not for the subject, laughable. Can you imagine what the reaction would be among Mental Health workers in Corrections if the government were to fund according to that stat?

    I don’t know how the stat was gathered, but I’d suspect it was gathered with the presumption of sanity. If the stat was to be gathered with the presumption of insanity, I’d expected we would not end up at a result that even vaguely reconciles to the existing stat. The stat is really only indicative to me of the scale of the mess we’re in. It seems to be a very long way from reality.

    I’d be very interested to see Julian’s other documentary(s) on mental health, the one’s which have led to people indicating elsewhere that Julian is concerned about the (poor) treatment the mentally ill receive from society.

    I’ll reiterate the following…Julian’s documentary indicated to me the need to rethink the way in which society deals with mental health (both causes and reactions to). It is clear that we should not accept the current situation, where mental health services seem overwhelmed…

  21. Dear Jon,

    Still engaging in dialogue here, although this post will probably seem rather too concise, but regarding insanity and society, I assume (or presume) you are familiar with this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madness_and_Civilization

    To answer you properly here would require a long essay, which I doubt I am in the mood for, and I would certainly be asking the Fighter of Monsters for permission to post.

    It’s in the pipes, and may well take a while, but in the meantime, feel free to email me.

    Atb D

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