Sometimes things happen that change the way your life is going in a split second. This week I had one of those experiences. I was on the train back to London, from a meeting in Manchester. Just past Salford, the train hit something. At first I thought it was a bit of debris – the train seemed to keep going despite the loud noise of the collision, but eventually it came to a halt.
I noted the train manager swiftly but calmly walking through the train, on her way to see the driver. The sun was shining (uncharacteristically for this year), and I wasn’t too concerned about the disruption to the journey. I didn’t need to be anywhere fast. I carried on writing my emails.
Then there was an announcement that unfortunately there had been a fatality on the line – that a person had thrown themselves in front of our train. It took a few minutes for my brain to comprehend what had happened, to reprocess some of the sounds that I had heard and to make sense of them. Then the horror set in, the empathy with the driver and the realisation that (and I am sorry if this sounds dramatic) I had just witnessed the end of someone’s life in the most horrific of circumstances – a thought that won’t stop running in my head.
I have to say, the train crew and the train company handled the situation very well. I felt held, understood and looked after in my own reaction to the incident. The train and all its passengers were held up for quite some time until the initial police enquiry was completed.
While waiting on the train, I had a number of reactions. Obviously there was shock – I wanted to reach out, have someone tell me that what I was feeling was normal, because it all felt very confusing, very surreal.
My iPhone allowed me to make contact with my loved ones, who reassured me and gave me a sense of safety. A little while afterwards I felt a sense of loss – the loss of this person’s life. I didn’t know who they were, but I couldn’t understand why they would take their life in such a violent way. Then I (and this is the bit that surprised me) felt a sense of failure and responsibility in relation to our profession; I wondered how matters had got so bad that this person couldn’t access help. It felt overwhelmingly sad. I went to a place where I had to question what I was doing in my job and whether it was really helping anyone if things like this can still happen.
Ultimately, however, the experience has left me with a renewed sense that what we do is vitally important; that it does save lives; that my role as BACP Chair, right here, at this time in relation to this profession, is to make sure that as many people have access to good, safe therapeutic support as need it. And it reminded me that sometimes life gives you what you need, even if it isn’t always what you want.
Taking us away from this sad topic, I wrote, a few columns ago, about my relief that BACP has successfully achieved accreditation of our voluntary register with the Professional Standards Authority, and that we can now move on to other issues. But, I admit, I was premature; for you, our members, there’s another stage still to be completed.
We’ve had a very good initial response to our communications about the need to join the Register. Many members who are BACP accredited have made the simple transition; many who need to complete the Certificate of Proficiency (CoP) first have done so, or have booked their place at one of our regional events. The feedback from BACP’s Making Connections events is that the CoP is relevant, meaningful, and possible!
Are you BACP accredited? Have you gone onto the BACP Register website and signed the terms and conditions to join the Register? If you aren’t BACP accredited, have you signed up to take a Certificate of Proficiency test? You’ll find all the information you need at www.bacpregister.org.uk
I urge you to do this now – don’t wait until your membership renewal date comes up. It’s important for you as a professional and practitioner, for the counselling profession as a whole, and for our clients above all. The Register is part of our continuing campaign to drive up standards, ethical practice, safety and our professional profile. Employers increasingly will be looking to see that you are on it. The standards of protection and ethical practice it enshrines put us on a par with our professional colleagues in the health and social care arena. Let’s all take this great step forward together!
Amanda Hawkins is Chair of BACP