Police dealing with record levels of mental health calls

Rising demands and cuts to the NHS means the police are having to pick up the pieces, according to a senior officer

Police dealing with record levels of mental health calls

Britain's biggest police force received a phone call relating to mental health every five minutes last year, according to a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Labour party.

The Metropolitan police saw a 33% increase in mental health calls last year over figures from 2011-12, answering a record 115,000 calls. This averages 315 a day, or 13 an hour.

Speaking to the Guardian, Insp Michael Brown, mental health coordinator for the College of Policing, said that a reduction in the ability of NHS mental health services was a crucial factor in the national rise in mental health calls to police.

"We know there is more demand on NHS mental health services and their funding has been cut," he said.

He noted that police have become better at recording such calls, but that alone did not account for the rise.

"Most people in contact with police about mental health issues don't need the police, they need a mental health professional.

"The inability to access a mental health professional is the problem, and that generates a lot of work for the police."

A number of crimes are being committed by those who are struggling to find help, viewing it to be the only way they can obtain treatment.

An as yet unpublished report detailing the number of times police powers have been used to detain people under mental health legislation are expected to be at record levels. Figures from 2005-06 show that the power was used 17,417 times, but by 2015-16 it hit 28,271, showing the significant growth in police time spent dealing with mental health cases.

Louise Haigh, the shadow police minister, said: "The dismantling of vital early intervention services forces those with mental health issues on to lengthy waiting lists.

"In desperation or in crisis, they will turn to the police, who are acting as the service of last resort, a role they are wholly unequipped for.

"The result is genuinely frightening and these figures should act as a wake-up call for the government."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Everyone should be able to access the mental health support they need. We have made major improvements in recent years, including setting up the first ever access and waiting standards for mental health and increasing mental health spending year on year to a record £11.6 billion in 2016/17."

Source: The Guardian


"London Metropolitan Police" by Yukiko Matsuoka is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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