Never Too Late Mate – Simon Harris

I watched it live on Monday 15th April.

There were two parts to the meeting, part 1 dealt with issues that the public were allowe to hear, and part 2 dealt with issues which included details that may include personal details of people, so we weren’t allowed to hear that part.

The public were not allowed to ask questions, I would have liked to ask one, but as it turned out Cllr Aidan McGurran asked all the questions I would have wanted to ask.

Overall I got the impression that Essex County Council want to brush it under the carpet as much as possible, Paul Turner especially was trying to downplay it all.

Before I talk about the rest of the meeting and thoughts about it, i’m going to write about an important question that Cllr McGurran asked, it was regarding whether Simon Harris had been DBS checked. The response was that Simon Harris didn’t need one because the work was at arms length, there were a few other excuses as well.

The work was not at arms length, Simon and the rest were working closely with members of the public each and every day, and while not employed by ECC they were all contractors. What concerns me the most is Simon Harris and the never too late mate group.

I can no longer find the group on Facebook, and there are quite a few other groups where Simon is admin that have disappeared. There are only two possibilities for this, one is that they have been deleted, which is a lot of work because every single person has to be removed from the group before the whole group can be deleted, or the group has been made secret. A secret group just means that nobody who isn’t a member can find it on Facebook. I’m a member of a couple of secret groups, one of them is just a lot of us who have known each other on the internet for 20 years. It’s secret because it’s only for those of us who were posting on the same platform way back then.

There were 516 members of the group before it disappeared

The following screenshot is from what appears to be a handout from Public Health at ECC, it’s a PDF. It appears to have been written by Mike Gogarty who was the head of public health in Essex at the time.

https://www.nalc.gov.uk/library/our-work/health/3380-mike-gogarty-presentation/file

Those figures look awfully dodgy. 20,000 residents participated in Mental Health First Aid training which led to 60,000 interventions, where did they get those numbers? What type of interventions? I can’t find any more information other than those figures and we aren’t told where those figures came from.

Most importantly, and extremely worrisome, is that it is self reported that 12 people self reported that that the training they got through facebook admins saved a life of someone they interacted with who was suicidal. Self reported seems to be to indicate that it was the facebook admins who self reported this. Is this true? In what way did they help?

12,000 residents in one town trained in suicide prevention in less that a week, representing 50% of that towns population. I’m going to put forward the hypothesis that those figures are a complete and utter load of rubbish. If the town has a population of 24,000 you can quickly discount a quarter of them as being under the age of 18, which leaves 18,000 people. So they are expecting the public to believe that 2/3’s of the adult population of that town took part in suicide prevention training in a week. That is not plausible

Who gave them the figures for this? Was it the Facebook admins? The training must have been online, for 2/3’s of the adult population to have found it, sat down and done it, and completed it, it must have been pretty easy. It just doesn’t make any sense. It does sound like a worthless piece of training if that may people can get through it so easy. Who know, Essex County Council have clearly just pulled some figures from their buttocks to make themselves look good.

Never too late mate is listed at the following link as a mental health support group. There is also mention of a Parents behaving kindly group, supporting 5000 across the county. That is a group solely run by Simon Harris and his wife.

The Parents Behaving Kindly group

Here is Simon Harris running a mental health first aid training course on behalf of Essex County Council. Kirsty O’Callaghan was also involved.

If you run a group about suicide presentation you are dealing with vulnerable people. Simon Harris was contracted by Essex County Council which involved some work with very vulnerable people, he absolutely should have had a DBS check done. It may have come back clean, it may not have, I haven’t got a clue if Simon has anything that means he would fail a DBS. Which means Essex County Council also had no clue when they contracted him to work with vulnerable people in Essex.

This is a video Simon Harris created for the Never too late mate facebook group, starring Simon Harris

I’m no expert but what I do know is that offering someone who is suicidal alcohol is not the best idea in the world. I know this because someone I know did that while they were drunk. They were fine, then there was an incident, they decided the best way to deal with the incident was to get drunk. Because they were so impaired they made a split second decision to do the unthinkable. If they hadn’t been drunk it is unlikely it would have happened. The drinking was literally in response to a bombshell being dropped on them. If he’d just gone to sleep things would have looked brighter in the morning. It was nothing that couldn’t have been sorted out. It just all happened so fast.

Alcohol is a depressant, it can also react badly with any anti depressant medication the person is taking. Alcohol when you are feeling suicidal is a bad move.

The advert for the group is loosely based on a video from the Samaritans from 2018, so 3 years before Simon Harris made the suicide prevention video starring Simon Harris.

Both videos consist of two people waiting for a train and give out the message that talking to someone who is suicidal may save their life. In the Samaritans video it revolves around a woman who is always commenting about the weather who ends up saying the same thing to a man on a train platform who looks like he may be in distress.

In my opinion Simon Harris has used the video by the Samaritans at the very least as an inspiration for his video. When it comes to making videos on mental health advice, it’s best to leave it to the professionals, not an internet prankster.

There is a clear and well documented link between alcohol and suicide, suggesting that someone who you think may be suicidal should go drink alcohol is a terrible idea.

Never too late mate was initially set up to have a list of places where men can get mental health help, but Simon said himself that it evolved into a community support group. As far as I can tell, Simon was paid £15000 for never too late mate. So he was contracted, and paid, by Essex County Council to facilitate a group with men in it who may be suicidal and have mental health difficulties.

Yet Essex County Council never did a background check on him, no DBS, absolutely nothing. He owned and ran a group full of men regarding men’s mental health. It doesn’t matter that it was online, he was a trusted source of information and advice to those vulnerable men, he may still be given we don’t know if the group has been deleted or just made secret and he’s still carrying on with the group.

During the meeting Paul Turner was absolutely adamant that Simon Harris did not need a DBS for any of the work he undertook. His response concerns me greatly, if Simon didn’t need a DBS for his work with vulnerable and possibly suicidal men, who else at Essex County Council is allowed to work with vulnerable people without a DBS?

The video he made that i’ve posted above, that Essex County Council paid for, is telling people to take those who you believe may be at risk for suicide out for a drink, is that good advice? From everything I know, including the personal experience i’ve spoken about, it’s never a good idea to give someone who is at risk of suicide alcohol. Go out for lunch, pop round to see them, go for a walk, a phone call, whatever, but alcohol is not a good thing when someone is suicidal.

As i’ve already stated on this blog before, I have frequent suicidal thoughts which are situational. Im a carer for three autistic children and my ex husband who has Huntington’s Disease, I receive absolutely no help, no support at all. I don’t have a life, I don’t have privacy, when I picture my future it’s all black because it’s just the same day after day with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Legally, Essex County Council should be providing me with help as an unpaid carer, they just refused, citing that there isn’t enough money. Cllr John Spence ran away from a table full of unpaid carers who were all crying, a lady who worked with either Cllr Spence of Nick Presmeg said she would look into things and email me. I think that must be 6 months ago now and nothing. I’m too tired to fight, i’m utterly exhausted and making it through the day is hard enough.

Meanwhile, Essex County Council has thrown about £1.5 million at this whole worthless Facebook fiasco. It appears that they used the Never too late mate rubbish as them providing mental health help, instead of actually providing mental health help in the county with the highest suicide rate in the country.

It was clear at the meeting on Monday that Paul Turner and others were only interested in brushing as much of this under the carpet as possible.