Police 'Picking Up The Pieces' Of The Country's Mental Health System

Police taking calls on mental health issues every two minutes, watchdog warns

Police taking calls on mental health issues every two minutes, watchdog warns

"IT IS frustrating" that mental health demand on North Yorkshire Police can not be accurately measured, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner has said.

The force has this week been recognised as "good" for the way officers support those with mental health problems, by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

The report said emergency services "need to stop relying on the 24/7 availability of the police", but praised work done by North Yorkshire's force to improve how it dealt with mental health issues, even though NYP could not specify how many of its calls were mental health-related.

She added: "People in crisis with mental health problems need expert support - support that can't be carried out in the back of a police vehicle or by locking them into a police cell".

"Our police services do a hugely challenging job day in, day out, and it can be hard dealing with vulnerable people who reach crisis in a public place". Over-stretched and all-too-often overwhelmed police officers can't always respond appropriately, and people in mental health crisis don't always get the help they need.

"We have grave concerns about whether the police should be involved in responding to mental health problems to the degree they are".

Police taking calls on mental health issues every two minutes, watchdog warns

The report calls for a "radical rethink" and a longer-term solution to what has become a "national crisis".

And Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire, Angus Macpherson, said those with mental health problems need "specialist support and care", rather than being left to be dealt with by police.

"When people with mental illness are unable to receive effective and timely treatment it is very often the police who, as the service of last resort, are there to pick up the pieces".

The top five individual report callers to the Metropolitan Police all have mental health problems and called the force a combined total of 8,655 times past year, costing it £70,000 just to handle the calls. It cost some £70,000 just to answer the calls, says the watchdog. The peak time for calls to forces is between 3pm and 6pm Monday to Friday, when GP surgeries, social care and community mental health teams close.

She added: "All too often, the system is failing people when they most need help".

"Residents of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly who are mentally unwell are better off in the hands of medical experts and not frontline police officers". This is not a problem that the police alone can solve.

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