Sadly my journey into London today was affected by an incident. The station announcer at Waterloo apologised for our inconvenience and told us that emergency services were dealing with an incident on the line, which of course is a euphemism for letting us know that today was the day that someone chose to end their life. Setting aside my immediate (and minor) irritation of having to catch a bus to access an unaffected train line, this will be a day when a family learn some tragic news about a loved one. Perhaps, however, the person did not know that they were loved and that was one of the reasons they decided this morning to end it all. Whatever the reason, this story is a tragic one for all concerned.
Bringing bad news to the doorstep can also follow a safeguarding concern being raised. It may be a visit from the police or social services to tell you about an incident concerning your child or an adult relative. It could also be the knock on the door that will lead to an arrest. Whatever the news, it will doubtless have a profound effect on immediate family members, then friends, and then the wider community including church.
There is probably no way to mitigate against the impact of bad news arriving unexpectedly, and so when a safeguarding concern hits a family or church community, the need for swift and easy access to good quality pastoral care is essential. There will also be many practical things for a family to consider if a member has been arrested, and as vestiges of family life start to fall apart, easily available advice and guidance is essential.
‘Stop it Now’ is a child sexual abuse prevention campaign and has recently published some guidance materials for individuals that suddenly find themselves under investigation and their families, especially when the alleged offences are on line. These are non-judgemental leaflets that aim to provide practical advice about how families can access support, remain resilient and functioning, especially as fractured relationships and a betrayal of trust can be very powerful influences on what happens next. They can be accessed on line at stopitnow.org.uk.
It’s also the case, according to media reports, that some people may respond to being investigated or brought to court, by considering or actually taking their own life to avoid whatever is coming next and how it will affect their families. I don’t know the story of the person this morning at all, but if in our safeguarding work we realise any distress is occurring, whatever the cause, we are able to point to sources of help and support, this action could help save a life.