Fri. Oct 15th, 2021

A man has opened up about jumping off a 50ft bridge in an attempt to take his own life.

Simon Kendall, 42, survived the jump but life-changing injuries resulted in the amputation of both legs.

His story of childhood sexual abuse, self-harm and dismay at the way he was treated by the mental health system is the subject of a book called Beneath the Scars, written by his friend Debbie Rigby.

None of Simon’s alleged abusers was ever prosecuted because of the lack of evidence, despite a police inquiry.

Simons says he’s forgiven one abuser thanks to his friend Debbie, NottinghamshireLive.

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Simon with his friend Debbie – who wrote a book about his story
(

Image:

Nottingham Post/ Marie Wilson)

Simon, who lives alone with his greyhound Marley, said: “I have been able to come to terms with the abuse but by sending me to the adult unit at Mapperley Hospital aged 15, I am still haunted by that experience to this day.

“And I believe if I hadn’t felt judged by many of the medical and psychiatric staff I’ve come across and not made to feel abnormal by a few, my life would be completely different now.”

Simon was seven when he was first referred to a psychiatrist, who prescribed tablets which helped for a while.

As a child, he said he struggled to understand the abuse he suffered and acted out his emotions at school by kicking chairs and fighting with teachers and other pupils.

*If you’re struggling and need to talk, the Samaritans operate a free helpline open 24/7 on 116 123. Alternatively, you can email jo@samaritans.org or visit their site to find your local branch

At 15, he was first admitted to an adolescent psychiatric unit after an attempted overdose.

His parents were told his behaviour was due to teenage hormones and he was sent home.

After another overdose, he was referred to the unit again and it was there he witnessed a girl injure herself by stubbing out a burning cigarette on the back of her hand.

He said he did the same and found it helped him to cope – which started the pattern of self-harm.

What followed was years of cutting himself so badly that he has lost count of how many stitches he has had to his face, arms and hands.

Simon has spoken about the abuse suffered as a child
(

Image:

Nottingham Post/ Marie Wilson)

At 15, he told a caseworker that he’d been sexually abused, not by one but two people.

He tried to escape the adolescent unit and ended up hitting and biting six nurses who tried to restrain him, resulting in him being sectioned and sent to the adult unit, at the former Mapperley Hospital, or as he describes it, the “hell hole”.

He said: “I felt like I was a prisoner there and my only crime was not knowing how to deal with my abuse. I saw things in this unit which would terrify an adult, let alone a child, and each time I tried to escape I was thrown into a padded cell.

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“I still have flashbacks now about being there. Sometimes when asleep, and I dream about Mapperley, I wake up crying and shouting.”

Simon says he was eventually diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder after going through multiple assessments with different professionals.

In one dark moment, Simon cut his face in a form of self-harm, hoping to look as threatening as possible would ward off any potential abusers.

Simon later got his face tattooed to prevent himself from self-harm and to keep potential rapists at bay by making him, in his words, “look like a complete and raving psycho”.

The book Beneath the Scars tells his story of how he lost consciousness immediately after jumping from the bridge and apologises to the drivers who rushed to his aid, saying how he regrets putting them through it and thanking them for their help.

Debbie was by his side when years later he decided to return to Mapperley Hospital – by then renamed Duncan Macmillan House in Porchester Road – in a bid to “put some of his demons to rest”.

Debbie, 57, arranged for him to speak to staff and said: “They validated that he shouldn’t have been there at the age of 15 and that was really helpful for Simon to hear.”

The mother-of-three spent hours listening to him relive his troubled past and suggested writing it down in the hope that it might be cathartic, always checking he was OK to continue, with the reassurance that he could stop at any time.

Part-way through, Simon suggested writing it up as a book to help those people who have gone through similar experiences and their families and friends – and as a learning curving for professionals too.

He said: “I just want to get my story out there, because even though over the last ten or so years, I have had better experiences in A&E and I am grateful for that, I want to help nurses, doctors and psychiatric nurses gain more understanding around self-injury.

“I would love in future for others who self-injure to receive more compassionate treatment than I received in the past because I believe this will help with their healing, not just physically but mentally and emotionally.

“It seems as though because my self-injury is deliberate, some professionals see my treatment as a drain on resources. I wonder if I had used another coping strategy such as alcohol or drugs, would they also have seen my treatment as a drain on NHS resources?

“I’m still a human being and if only they had not put me in a box to be treated a certain way because I had deliberately injured myself and instead they had taken the time to try and understand those reasons and the effects of my experiences, things would be different.

“I have been accused of attention-seeking by doctors and I try to explain but they don’t get it. One thing that sticks out in my mind is when I had sliced through my Achilles tendon again. The doctor said ‘next time you do it, don’t do it down there, do it here’ and he ran his finger across his throat. I was shocked and stunned. I still can’t believe that a doctor would say such a thing.”

When Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust was contacted about the incident, a spokesperson said: “We’re sorry to hear that Mr Kendall had an upsetting incident in our hospital around 25 years ago. Practice in our emergency department is very different now, and there is a Rapid Response Liaison Psychiatry Team in place that help patients with mental health needs who come to our department.”

People who injure themselves are usually given a list of ‘coping strategies’ which are supposed to distract them from the urge – such as hitting cushions, going for a run, or putting ice cubes on the area selected for cutting.

Simon says: “My coping strategy? I’ve got Debbie. She is the only person, apart from my GP, and now my most recent psychiatrist, who I felt truly listened to me in an empathic and non-judgemental way.

Simon adds: “Judging people by the way they look can cause a totally different and negative response to that person, whereas professionals who treat you with genuine understanding and acceptance, without judgement – that’s the most helpful thing someone who injures themselves can experience.”

Chris Ashwell, associate director for mental health services at Nottinghamshire Healthcare, told NottinghamshireLive: “We’re sorry to hear about Mr Kendall’s experience of mental health services in the 1990.

“As with all mental health conditions, we have a much better understanding of self-harm than we did 30 years ago. Today a 15-year-old in need of inpatient care would almost always be admitted to Hopewood, our purpose-built mental health unit for children, young people and families. In the rare event that a young person had to be admitted to an adult mental health unit now, they would be cared for away from the general adult population of the ward.

“Self-harm is a symptom of emotional distress. Our work with young people is focused on addressing the underlying reasons for this distress and supporting them to develop less harmful and more positive coping mechanisms.”

Beneath the Scars is available to buy through Waterstones, Amazon or by emailing Debbie at beneaththescars2@gmail.com, priced £11.99.

*If you’re struggling and need to talk, the Samaritans operate a free helpline open 24/7 on 116 123. Alternatively, you can email jo@samaritans.org or visit their site to find your local branch

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