How do we tackle the dilemma of mental health demand on policing?

This morning I’ve been in London leading a session for many of my Police and Crime Commissioner colleagues on policing and mental health.

I led on this work for PCCs for five years until last year, and represented us on the independent review of the Mental Health Act that took place some years ago, and the national steering group with the Home Office and Department for Health and Social Care.

The Police have a role to play in mental health – they always have and will. However, at what point does the demand being placed on them become too much, and the agency responsible is held to account?

At the heart of this is an individual in need of assistance, and at that time, whilst it is the case that they get the right support from the right agency, when should it be the police?

The demand comes from many different strands, including crisis, victimisation, vulnerability and cases of missing persons. But in many cases, the Police are still being used as the service of first and last resort.

We will be producing a new paper for government with the different actions that we believe need to be taken to address this, with the vulnerable person at its heart.

We did also discuss the issue of police officers and staff and their own mental health, and what we can do to support them.


HMICFRS (2018), Picking up the pieces: Policing and Mental Health

Independent Review of the Mental Health Act (2018), Modernising the Mental Health Act: increasing choice, reducing compulsion

NPCC (2020), National Strategy on Policing and Mental Health

APCC (2021), Mental Health and COVID 19

Kane, Cattell, Wire (2021), Mental health-related police incidents: Results of a national census exercise in England and Wales

Department of Health and Social Care (2021), Reforming the Mental Health Act

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