Police services all over the world are essential as a de facto mental health service, especially around crisis care. All have struggled with untoward incidents involving the use of force, or deaths following police contact, which have framed – perhaps distorted – discussion. Reviews of these incidents have concluded that police officers are usually working in a context where the professional options available to them are not always adequate and that support after police decision-making is not always available. Reviews have also emphasized the need to improve police training and awareness of mental health, without necessarily specifying what that means and without taking account of contributory problems in healthcare provision by other agencies. Better police training and awareness of the mental health issues they face professionally is essential, but not sufficient. Many of the people the police encounter, where mental health is a factor in the incident, are known to have a history of mental health problems and have often been service users previously. The challenge is twofold – to reduce reliance upon the police service (and criminal justice system, including the prison service) to the extent we can; and to improve the quality of the police response where it is necessary for officers to become involved.
Chief Inspector Michael Brown OBE is Mental Health Coordinator for the College of Policing & NPCC
You can read more about Michael and his work on his blog at https://mentalhealthcop.wordpress.com/about/