Gazette letters: Spring, housing, mental illness and Mary Hassell

Abney Park Cemetery. Picture: ISABEL INFANTES

Abney Park Cemetery. Picture: ISABEL INFANTES - Credit: Archant

One of my earliest memories is a snowy April day in London – my dad’s birthday, we had come to visit my uncle, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

At home now beset with the low-lying residual symptoms of a winter cold it is a day all too easy to recall. Lingering winter temperatures had become until this year a distant memory.

There is some evidence of warmer weather, though; the cherry blossom outside the Rio Cinema and the constant stream of daffodil clumps across parks.

Another sign is the fast growing patches of weeds, spreading across the corners and up against the fences of gardens. Green Alkanet is an early offender. Along New River Path and in front gardens across Stoke Newington its hairy leaves reach out, covering the long-suffering lawns of winter.

You would recognise Green Alkanet, small blue-purple, forget-me-not flowers and large oval leaves, it is a common sight along uncared for verges. Abney Cemetery is full to the brim with it. It is an ancient plant, prescribed since Roman times to heal wounds and broken bones – now consigned to the compost heap after the first bout of spring garden clearing. Leave it for a while though as its flowers will bring the bees some much needed food after the long cold spell.

You are doing a grand job publicising housing problems in Hackney, writes James Pickthall, Pembury Estate, Hackney.

There is another issue that many people are unaware of and that is social housing that is under-occupied. I live in a one-bedroom Peabody property on the Pembury Estate with my wife and two teenage sons. My boys sleep on a mattress on the floor of the living area.

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Peabody refuses to include me on the transfer list for a two-bedroom property. It says I am not overcrowded enough.

It really angers me that there are at least seven properties with two or three-bedrooms but are only occupied by one person. I don’t think the councils and social housing organisations have the legal powers to make under-occupiers move to smaller properties and the government doesn’t seem to be interested.

I suspect my street is only the tip of the iceberg. There are most likely hundreds of social housing properties in Hackney.

Of course, I do recognise by reading your articles that there are many people in worse housing situations that me and my family.

Keep up the good work with your project.

I lived in Hackney for eight years and enjoyed it greatly, writes Dr R Kimble, Lea Farm Road, Leeds, formerly of Hackney.

I am becoming increasingly angered by officials and politicians chanting the tired cliches about “partnership agencies” and “lessons will be learned”. I am angered also by politicians trying to make political gain by these recent deaths, on both sides. What is really exasperating me, though, are the frequent references to the need to work with mental health services. Why, you might ask? Politicians on both sides have spoken of trying to reduce the stigma around mental illness and mental health. However, they all demonstrate time and time again that they do not know what mental health (as opposed to mental illness) actually is.

May once said “young people with mental health need support”: clearly she meant mental illness and they do this all the time – show their utter lack of knowledge and confuse the terminology. I bet Hunt has no knowledge of any of the major paradigms of mental health or illness. They then draw, as Diane Abbott has today, a link between violence and mental illness by referring to these services, which is a stereotype that increases stigma and then also makes sufferers vulnerable to attack themselves. Can they not think about what they are saying?

I have been a mental health nurse and lecturer since 1971 and on the few occasions I was hit I can say I deserved it: sometimes by saying something crass (“I know how you feel”) or being inadvertently threatening. Mental illness cannot be associated automatically with violence these days. It is specious and inaccurate.

Keep your mouth shut if you don’t know what you’re talking about – you just make it worse.

Coroner’s cab rank system is fair, writes a local resident, full name and address supplied.

In response to the article by Harry Taylor on the “cold-hearted coroner”, while I sympathise with those from Jewish and Muslim communities regarding delays over the release of bodies for burial, those of other faiths often have to take a back seat and experience delays of up to three weeks before a funeral can take place.

Ms Hassell is not being cold-hearted and unfeeling in trying to uphold a fair, thorough system. Other faiths should not be inconvenienced or have their grief prolonged by delays caused by one taking precedence over another. Where there is a process to follow, it must be followed.

In an ideal world, there should not be delays in releasing a body, but there is only so much one person can achieve by themselves. Delays must not be foistered upon other faiths in bowing to pressure from the Jewish and Muslim communities.

Ms Hassel’s cab rank system is fair for everyone.