The anonymous police officer, who blogs under the pseudonym Nathan Constable, believes mental health patients are locked up for the ‘crime’ of being ill, when what they really need is greater support.
He says there is a ‘passing the buck’ attitude among services fuelled by nonsensical policies which prevent real help from being given when it is needed.
For example, police are often called to emergencies where an individual appears to be at risk of suicide in their own home. Under the Mental Health Act, officers are only allowed to enter private properties after a warrant has been issued by a magistrate. Even with a warrant, they can only assess whether a person needs further assessment or treatment. They are not allowed to detain them in order to prevent them from harm.
Because many of the emergencies happen in people’s homes, the police find themselves unable to help. In Scotland, the police do have the right to detain people in their own home and Nathan Constable believes this right should be extended to English police forces.
If the incident happens in public, police are allowed to detain the individual and take them to ‘a place of safety’. Unfortunately, this place tends to be a police cell due to a shortage of mental health units.
Nathan describes the police practice of dealing with mental health patients as ‘almost medieval’. Because of the confusion of rights, protocol and bureaucracy, vulnerable people are being put at risk. Nathan Constable has devised three policy changes to address this problem:
1. Better mental health training for police, including first aid and greater understanding of the needs of patients.
2. Better out of hours mental health services, including the capacity to give mental health assessments, offer emergency care and store beds and resources.
3. Change in legislation to give police officers in England the right to deal with mental health crises in private properties.
For information about what to do when someone appears at risk of suicide, please visit our How To Help Someone Who Is Suicidal page.
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