My seven year-old son came home from school a few weeks ago with some maths homework. It was a series of number problems where he had to predict the next number in a sequence based upon the appearance of a pattern:
2 – 4 – 6 … ?
3 – 6 – 9 … ?
10 – 20 – 30 … you get the idea.
He rattled through it fairly quickly and we ended up having a chat about it. I ended up suggesting that he should say to the teacher “I’ve written what I think you want but there wasn’t enough information to be certain!” (I admit that I like stirring his head and getting him to question things!)
It’s child’s play isn’t? … literally?! How could the answers be anything other than 8, 12 and 40? Well the answers could have been any number of things, depending on the rule or rules in operation in the pattern.
The first answer could be 10 – if the rule was “sum of the last two numbers” … and that would make the second answer 15 and the third 50.
Even if the examples had included the first four or even ten integers in a sequence rising by consistent values, there could be a complexity in the rule which means that guessing the next as any seven year old could, leads you to choose the obvious but incorrect option which has disastrous consequences.
What has the over-simplified prep school homework that is teaching my son to look for the obvious and not to THINK got to do with policing and mental health?!
It’s about NOT leaping to obvious conclusions and it is about the dangers of NOT THINKING. My son’s teacher is an excellent teacher and they are going through this exercise for a reason relevant to 7yr olds; but where police officers are encouraged by overly simplistic mental health policies to do things which make presumptions and / or assumptions about what they are actually managing, we can now see how we stack the deck in favour of untoward events.
Alcohol, drugs and resistance are often said to be triggers or exclusion criteria that should see people removed to police custody after detention under s136 Mental Health Act. We see this ‘pattern’ in so many s136 policies including in a draft protocol I reviewed for another force earlier in the week.
It even appears intuitive – you can’t usually assess drunk patients; resistance or violence can render NHS facilities unsuitable because they are often not designed or constructed to the standard required to handle disturbed detainees. So the next part of the sequence according to the pattern that has emerged is cells. Right?!
No – because the rule that should be operation in every police detention of someone who is mentally ill, should be that we don’t have enough information to know what the next step is.
We need to establish the rules – how do we do that?!
- You call an ambulance – every time.
- You remove someone presenting with a RED FLAG to A&E
- You only remove someone to a police station when you know that it is clinically safe to do so – because a paramedic or A&E staff or psychiatric PoS staff have helped you understand the rules in play.
So while we’re at it, which of these horizontal lines is the longest?
Even though you know I’m playing mind games and that they are actually the same length, you still see the lower line as longer, don’t you?! Cognitive illusions can be just as powerful as visual ones … you work it out!
Meanwhile, my seven year-old son is questioning a bit more and that is NEVER a bad thing, although his teacher looked fairly exhausted at 4pm today!
Incidentally, this is the first post I have ever written, entirely on my iPhone using the WordPress App. It’s worth getting, even just to read blogs, but great for writing and maintaining them!