Police ‘First Resort’ in Helping Mental Health Issues Prompts Positive National Debate

Maurice Richmond
By Maurice Richmond,
updated on Jan 2, 2019

Police ‘First Resort’ in Helping Mental Health Issues Prompts Positive National Debate

Pressures raise awareness for better professional resources

Senior police figures say the lack of mental health provisions is placing an unacceptable drain on the force, prompting calls for better formulations and treatments of people with serious mental health issues.

Martyn Underhill, Dorset’s police and crime commissioner, passionately called for an improved system of how we care for people with serious mental health issues, saying police officers “are not mental health professionals”.

A record number of calls are now being handled by the Metropolitan Police concerning people’s mental health – 115,000 were made in the last year, an average of 13 calls every hour. Last year, UK police forces dealt with almost 300,000 incidents involving mental health issues – more than 820 incidents a day.

A woman using a mobile phone

Inspector Michael Brown, mental health coordinator for the College of Policing, said officers are picking up the pieces due to the NHS being “overwhelmed”, and called for an improvement resources. He said: “The inability to access a mental health professional is the problem, and that generates a lot of work for the police.”

Although the figures are alarming, the current pressures facing the police demonstrate that high-quality mental health services, care and treatment are essential for our modern society.

SANE response:

Marjorie Wallace, CEO and founder of the mental health charity SANE, told Happiful: “We have admiration for the police who are picking up a lot of the pieces, spending 30% of their time on mental health crises. But they’re not trained to do that. It takes more than seven years to train a psychiatrist, and it’s just dumped on the police.”

Read Happiful’s in-depth interview with Ms Wallace in our November issue.

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