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Mental health and policing

January 30, 2016 11:23 AM

Lib Dem mental health poster from 2014

In 2014, 37% of the demand on the Suffolk police force was related to mental health*.

In July 2014, at a public meeting in Saxmundham**, the incumbent Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk was asked about the action being taken to resolve the link between poor mental health, addiction and crime. He described addiction services being introduced for a triage programme, for drugs testing on arrest, and for addiction treatment and rehabilitation. The minutes of the meeting record that "he advised that the Suffolk Health and Wellbeing Board were trying to address these issues by joined up partnership working".

Later that same year, a counsellor at a university in East Anglia advised a worried student that if her flatmate were to have another apparently psychotic episode, then the correct and immediate course of action should be to call the police. The police, she was told, are equipped to deal with such a scenario, whereas the health services are not. So the student was advised not to feel uncomfortable about calling out the police to attend a young woman who was neither a drug user nor a criminal, but who was simply ill.

Mental health and problems of addiction are undoubtedly linked, and addiction is undoubtedly a contributory factor in many crimes and public disorder or personal violence offences. But is it really the case that the police should be the first port of call when urgent treatment of a mental health condition is required? Could the financial burden placed on the police be alleviated by spending more money (more wisely) in mental health provision within the health service instead? Just a thought.


* Figure taken from Constables County: All Change For Suffolk, http://www.suffolk-pcc.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Suffolk-Change-Constables-County-partner-version-2.pdf [accessed 31 January 2016]

** http://www.suffolk-pcc.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Notes-Suffolk-Coastal-Public-Meeting-21-July-2014.pdf [accessed 31 January 2016]