Earlier this week I stopped to help a young man prevent a young woman (23), Lisa (name changed) from throwing herself back into the Regents Canal. The woman was clearly drunkand very wet - according to the man she'd had the best part of a bottle of vodka. This probably explained some of her behaviour. It was about 07:45 in the morning.
I stopped a passing cyclist and asked him to call the police and an ambulance. For the next twenty minutes we restrained the woman, people passed, stared and wanted to say something - they didn't. The people in the gardens on the other side of the canal continued to eat their breakfasts. Finally a burly policeman arrived. He was harsh in a sympathetic way - but at least you knew that he'd be able to prevent the woman from harming herself any further. I left my details and went back to my office.
About 2 hours later I received a call from the policeman. Lisa had been to hospital, received treatment for possible hypothermia and Weil's disease. She was now in a police cell having been arrested for her own safety. The policeman asked for my account of the events. However the policeman was also concerned that I might have been affected or found the incident disturbing. Of course it was unsettling - it's not every day that you get involved in a situation like that - but my concern was more for the woman than myself - was she ok? Did she have people who could look after her? It transpires that the policeman was considering charging Lisa with an offence of causing distress in a public place or similar. Does anyone think that treating mental health or social issues as criminal matters really helps solve anything? At the end of the day the only person who has probably suffered any harm from the events is Lisa - the hangover she's got is punishment enough for most; the reality that her life appears to be falling apart at just 23 is even worse.