Police and mental health

Explains when you may have contact with the police, what happens if you are arrested and what your rights are if you are taken to the police station. Applies to England and Wales.

Your stories

The night I spent in a cell

Claire blogs about why a police cell was the last place she needed to be during a mental health crisis.

Posted on 27/11/2014

Mental illness and violence

Marion Janner on substance abuse, stigma and sense of self.

Posted on 01/03/2010

Crisis care in Wales

Sara blogs about the changes to crisis care in Wales resulting from the Crisis Care Concordat.

Sara Moseley
Posted on 17/05/2017

When do the police get involved?

The three most common ways that people with mental health problems come into contact with the police are if they are:

Victim of crime

In 2013, we published the report At risk, yet dismissed with the charity Victim Support. Findings show that people with mental health problems are:

  • three times more likely to be a victim of crime than the general population
  • five times more likely to be a victim of assault (rising to 10 times more likely for women)
  • more likely to be a repeat victim and experience different types of crime
  • far less likely to be satisfied with the service and support they receive.

You can read our page on what to do if you are a victim of crime.

Unwell or vulnerable 

If people are worried about you and think that you may be unwell or vulnerable, the police have special powers under the Mental Health Act:

  • Section 135 allows a police officer to enter property with a warrant and take you to a place of safety for assessment.  
  • Section 136 allows a police officer to take you to a place of safety for assessment under the Mental Health Act if you are in a public place.

For more information see our pages on the Mental Health Act.

Accused of committing a crime 

If you have been accused of committing a crime, the police will want to question you and to look into it. The following pages in this resource explain what the procedure for this is, and what your rights are in this situation.

Can I be interviewed if I am not arrested?

The police may ask to go to the police station for a voluntary interview. It is up to you whether you agree. Some things to think about:

  • You have the right to a solicitor present even for a voluntary interview.
  • The police must arrange an appropriate adult to attend the interview with you if you need one.
  • As you haven’t been arrested the police can’t impose bail conditions after the interview.
  • You don't have the right to be examined by a doctor/nurse and have your fitness assessed for a voluntary interview.
  • If you don’t agree to go voluntarily for the interview, the police may consider whether to have the interview under arrest (see our page on being arrested).

You should to speak to a solicitor before you decide whether to have a voluntary interview.


This information was published in November 2017. We will revise it in 2019.

Mental Health A-Z

Information and advice on a huge range of mental health topics

> Read our A-Z


Helping you to better understand and support people with mental health problems

> Find out more

Special offers

Check out our promotional offers on print and digital booklets, for a limited time only

> Visit our shop today