Policing demand: Pointing people in crisis to the right help
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We regularly receive calls into our Contact Management Centre, and our frontline frequently deal with incidents where mental health illness is a factor.
In the last year, 6.4% of all calls in to our 999 or 101 service were mental health related. Each year, on average, around 50% of mental health related calls we receive could have been directed elsewhere to health care professionals.
As a Police Force we know that we are not the best or most appropriate service to deal with people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. There are several agencies doing incredible work that would be far better equipped to support and help those experiencing a crisis or their friends and family. But we do appreciate it is not always possible when dealing with someone who is mentally unwell or experiencing a mental health crisis and calling the police seems like the only option.
Recognising the demand that mental health places on the Force, in the last five years we have introduced steps to ensure we can offer the best support and response to those struggling with mental health.
Our control room has provisions in place in the form of the mental health triage service funded jointly by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) and the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), where officers can access medical advice and liaise directly with mental health services.
In 2020 we also introduced Mental Health Tactical Advisors to the Force. Officers and staff who have additional training to better understand mental health concerns, rights for individuals, the legislation around mental health, local support available and how to manage individuals in the community who come to attention of the police.
Sergeant Tracey Holloway works with the Salisbury Area Community Policing Team and is a trained Mental Health Tactical Advisor for the Force.
Tracey said: “As a Tactical Advisor for the Force I work with partners across the community to identify individuals who have regular contact with the Force and where their actions and behaviour suggest mental health may be the underlying cause.
“Sometimes these individuals are known to mental health services, sometimes they are not.
“They come to the attention of myself and the team through various routes including when an individual is in a time of crisis, committing offences such as anti-social behaviour and harassment, or by exhibiting behaviour we would consider out of the ordinary, such as frequent calls into 999, 101 or other emergency service.
“I meet regularly with partners to discuss individuals identified and to put care plans in place. Through these meetings I also get professional advice on how we as a force should deal with individuals when we come into contact with them.
“Through the care plans we aim to achieve the right outcome for that service user, whilst addressing any concerns for welfare and risk. Mostly we achieve this through referrals to other agencies, and discussions around the appropriate course of action, but on occasions, where necessary to keep people safe an arrest can be made under the mental health act.
“Mental health is one area of the areas of high demand for the Force and as a Mental Health Tactical Advisor and I play a role in helping to reduce the demand the placed upon our service.
“I have built trusted relationships with partners working in mental health, which has been incredibly valuable. I have learned to recognise patterns of behaviour which may indicate mental health illness and I know what steps I need to take to get help and support in place early before an individual’s mental health declines further.
“The Police are not the best service to support someone in a mental health crisis, but we will always do our best to support and help someone in need.
If you are currently experiencing a mental health crisis or supporting someone in crisis, you can call the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust crisis line on 0800 953 1919.
If you have diagnosed mental health problems, 24/7 help is available from your intensive or recovery team. They will have provided you with the number to use. If you are feeling anxious you can talk with your GP or call 111.
Mental health is one of the areas of demand we are highlighting as part of our ‘Click or Call’ campaign this summer.
We are asking the public to help reduce demand placed upon the Force. In an emergency call 999 but for everything else, start online.