In Praise of Mental Health Cop

This morning I woke to the very surprising news that Mental Health Cop (also known as Inspector Michael Brown of the West Midlands Police) has closed down his blog, Twitter and Facebook page. I don’t know the reasons for this, and those who do know seem to be rather tight-lipped about it. I have noticed, however, that several other police tweeters have also closed their accounts.

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael at the Mind Media Awards 2012, where he won the Mark Hanson Award for Digital Media, and interviewed him afterwards. We’ve also conversed online many times, and what’s frequently struck me is how dedicated he is to promoting better understanding of the intersection between mental health and policing. Over time, I’ve come to the view that I was speaking not only with an outstanding police officer, but also a genuinely nice guy. He has certainly challenged my stereotypes of police officers, and has consistently behaved as a credit to the ideals of policing.

Michael has since gone on to win other awards. At the This Week in Mentalists Awards 2012 for mental health blogging, he picked up Best Mental Health Not Otherwise Specified blog. In the #Twentalhealthawards he was runner-up in the Informative category in 2012. Then in 2013 he won Professional Not Otherwise Specified and was a runner-up in the Informative and Helpful categories.

In his online output he has been consistently informed, passionate and articulate. His blog in particular has been a valuable resource not only for frontline police officers and health workers, but also for mental health survivors and activists. If it has to remain offline, the loss will be huge.

As I stated earlier, I don’t know why Mental Health Cop has closed down. However, what I will say is that Inspector Brown has my respect and best wishes.

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20 thoughts on “In Praise of Mental Health Cop

  1. Well said. A huge loss.

  2. A huge loss to the community.

  3. I hope West Midlands Police come around soon. Michael Brown has not given us hard fact, but wonderful anecdotal information. I think he’s done more for the public-police relationship than most other police officers combined.

  4. That’s a real shame. I wish you well, Michael.

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  6. Shame- I really enjoyed his tweets. Illuminating and compassionate.

  7. A lot of public sector employers seem to be very frightened of any comment on social media. I was threatened with disciplinary action for asking about the evidence base for something a different part of my organisation was doing on twitter (I wasn’t alone in wondering – since then several articles have been written in medical journals questioning the same thing – presumably I’d hit a sore point; but the response was wrong!)

    I’m not sure if the civil service guidance applies to police tweeps. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/social-media-guidance-for-civil-servants . Oddly, the introduction by Francis Maude states that “Social media must only be used responsibly and when it enhances the core work of civil servants.” It’s not entirely clear whether this applies to official use of Twitter by civil service departments (in which case I fully agree with him); or to the use of social media by civil servants in any capacity, including a personal capacity. I suspect it might have been written in a deliberately vague way. That way they can breezily say “oh no, it only means official capacity use” when challenged; but employers can still use it to discipline people for what they say in a personal capacity, claiming in this context that it does apply.

    The problem is that when people who know the most about what they’re talking about are prevented from speaking, and only politicians and official bodies who are answerable to them may speak in public, then government has far too much power to present a one-sided account of the world. We really need a “free speech for civil servants” law, like the one (I think) they have in USA.

    • It’s not always “frightened” so much as forbidden by, certainly in the NHS, employer’s policies, gagging clauses in contracts, being blocked from any use of social media on work pooters and the like.
      Then fear does play a part, as it is well known what happens to NHS whistleblowers or any who dissent or challenge the “party line”.
      Censorship is alive and well in the UK in 2014…
      Happy days!

  8. It’s unfortunate that these accounts have been ended, because the general reputation of police is very negative. Mental Health Cop made great strides toward improving this situation. I imagine the police will now slide back into the previous (well-deserved) bad rep.

    • I can’t really put into words my appreciation for the support and knowledge I’ve had from Michael. He’s a real star and miss him already although obviously hoping he’ll be back soon. He’s far more intelligent than me and I don’t say that lightly :p but seriously, hoping, if he reads this that he’s ok and wishing him all the best xx

  9. A relatively innocuous blog…alongside the lying, bigoted Gadget.

  10. Wow. This is a really sad day for the mental health community, and a really sad day for police in general. MH Cop made MH law and policing so accessible to even the layperson, not to mention the huge number of professionals who have asked for and received timely advice from him. I hope Insp. Brown realises just how much he is valued and missed.

  11. Reblogged this on ybrumro and commented:
    A sad day. Best wishes to Michael and I hope this is sorted out quickly and his accounts are restored.

  12. Just to add my good wishes to the hundreds of others Michael has deservedly received. I never met him in person, but had a number of online conversations with him and enjoyed his writing and tweeting immensely.

    I wonder if the PR folks at WMP realise just what a fundamental balls-up they’ve made, both in terms of their reputation, and vis a vis the impact on the mental health (and presumably the police) community/ies on social media. As others have observed, Michael Brown and similar police tweeters/bloggers have done far more for cop-community relations (and police public image) than the corporate side of any constabulary.

    I hope we’ll see you back Michael, but whatever happens: respect and every good wish.

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  14. The decision has had a huge impact on so many people. Mental health cop was a huge asset to not only police officers and healthcare professionals but also mental health service users and carers. He helped me a lot.

  15. I don’t always agree with MHC but he is one of the good guys in all this – hope this all gets sorted soon

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