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Thursday, 12th February 2015

UK: Policing and Mental Health

Source: House of Commons Home Affairs Committee (UK)

From Introduction:

One in four people will suffer from mental health illness at some point, and their illness brings with it a vulnerability that makes it likely they will come into contact with the police. This vulnerability is particularly relevant in a mental health crisis, and when they do so, it should be considered primarily as a health matter, so they can seek and receive support from a mental health team, or if they call 999 to ask for help, the first responders should be health professionals.

Unfortunately, mental health services are not always available. The Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, Minister of State for Care and Support at the Department of Health, has said that only 25% of young people with mental health problems had access to mental health services, services he described as “dysfunctional and fragmented”. Mental health services have deteriorated over many years and under successive governments. There is evidence that some people, particularly from black and ethnic minority communities, are reluctant to engage with mental health services if they have previously had a poor experience. This can lead to treatment being avoided or delayed, and people seeking help only when it reaches crisis point.

Access to mental health crisis care is limited, particularly at night. Where people do not have access to appropriate emergency healthcare, the police have become the de facto “first aid response to mental distress.” Many of the people that come into contact with the police in this way are already known to the health services—as many as two-thirds of those detained by the police under s. 136 of the Mental Health Act are already in receipt of mental health care. And yet the police are not confident they are qualified or the right people to be dealing with such situations. This inquiry is largely focused on what happens in those situations when the police are called to someone in crisis.

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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

More articles by Adrian Janes »

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