Helen and Louisa from our Coventry & Warwickshire Employment Support team attended an emotional ‘Love Instead of Hate’ event, hosted by Warwickshire Hate Crime Partnership. Helen reported back about how important the day was for her in raising understanding and awareness of hate crimes and how to support their victims and witnesses.

The purpose of this event was to raise awareness of hate crimes. I am very passionate about people just loving each other; I grew up in the era of race relations and the music of Coventry, SKA and Two Tone, bringing people together.  It has always amazed me that human beings can dislike people because of something as unchangeable and unimportant as skin colour. Throughout my university days I studied the social and psychological aspects of hate in an effort to understand the age-old question of whether this hatred in our nature, or is it something that society brings about? My hope, now and forever, is that human beings are designed to love not hate - but we have to work together to promote and encourage this.  

I truly believe that hate and fear can contribute to/aggravate so many mental health issues. Losing faith in our world and our fellow human beings because of the lack of love and kindness leads to a feeling of not belonging…feelings of not belonging lead to despair, and fear of hate leads to anxiety.

So today’s event was massively important for us as mental health workers. The people on stage today have not only survived the most awful hate-filled atrocities, and yet they fight back with love and courage rather than hating the group the attacker comes from. 

One of the most awesome things I have heard was Dan Biddle, a survivor of the 7/7 bombings, explaining that while the Muslim bomber who injured him was a terrorist it was also Muslim nurses and doctors that saved his life: he refused to associate the terrorist’s actions and beliefs with the good and kind people who helped him.

Caroline Paige’s story is also one of the most inspiring, hopeful stories of fighting to be yourself without judgement. She was the first openly transgender aviator to serve in the RAF, and transitioned whilst a member of the armed forces at a time when gender identity issues were not openly discussed. She described the support she got from unexpected places, and in my opinion she is a true hero, saving lives and paving the way for others to live life as themselves.

I could write endless pages about the stories we heard, many of which affected me and my colleague Louisa deeply – but it is important to focus on answers to the question which I asked the panel during the event: What can we do?  How can WE prevent such atrocities?

 The answer according to many attending was first and foremost to report hate crimes, whether you are a victim or a witness. Hate crime statistics have gone up, but as Richard Moore, the Deputy Chief Constable said, that doesn’t mean more crime - just more confidence in reporting it and more understanding of what hate crimes are occurring. We also need to recognise the effects of bullying, discrimination and hatred on our mental health.

I haven’t got all the answers but I know I will try my utmost to support anyone who I meet who has suffered from hate crime, and encourage them to do as the police have asked and report it.

- Helen

If you're in the Coventry or Warwickshire area and want to find out more about how Helen and her colleagues could support you, please click here.