The London Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) announced yesterday that it is committed to improving its support for people with mental health problems and that mental health is a ‘top priority’.
MPS Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe outlined a number of initiatives designed to improve the MPS’s response to mental health, which includes placing mental health professionals in custody suites, so that people with mental health problems who have been arrested on suspicion of a crime can be assessed and referred for treatment.
The plans were announced in response to an independent report, published a little over a year ago, which found that the Metropolitan Police Force (MPS) in London needed to improve its response to people with mental health problems.
The report was produced by the Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing, which looked at 55 cases where people had died or sustained a serious injury during or following contact with the police. The Commission also called for evidence from people with relevant experience.
Mind’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer was appointed as one of the commissioners and members of Mind were invited to come forward and share any experiences they had with the MPS.
Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said:
“We are changing the way we think and deal with people who are vulnerable. My officers recognise better now than ever that people who have mental health issues need the right access, help and support to services.
“Our officers are not experts but we have helped them recognise mental health issues and how to get the right help.
“We have come a long way but there is still more to do and we will continue to work with our partners to improve how we respond to those with mental health needs. This report gives us options to prevent police officers coming to conflict with people who only need health care.”
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind and a member of the Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing, said:
“We are pleased to see that, a year after the publication of the Commission’s report, the Metropolitan Police is making improvements to the way it treats people with mental health problems. Mental health is core police business and officers will come into contact with people with mental health problems in all sorts of ways, from people who are in mental health crisis and desperately unwell, to victims of crime, witnesses and suspects. In all cases, frontline staff need to be able to recognise the signs of mental ill-health and know how best to support someone who may be unwell, while proper resourcing is needed to make sure that people get the right help in the most appropriate setting.
“Our report made a number of recommendations and we know it will take time for them all to be implemented but we urge the Met to continue to keep up the pace of change and keep mental health as a top priority. This will set a good example to other forces to make similar improvements to their own practice, for the benefit of everyone with a mental health problem who comes into contact with police.”
Other MPS mental health initiatives include:
- Reviewing mental health training and helping frontline officers recognise the signs of that someone might have a mental health problem.
- Establishing an expert group of stakeholders who to advise the MPS on training, policy and procedure.
- Contributing to the Department of Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat.
- Working with the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and the London Ambulance Service to develop a training DVD for all officers and staff.
- Working closely with other London police forces, the London Ambulance Service and the nine NHS mental health trusts across London through the Pan London Mental Health Partnership Board.
Mind has produced a guide for police officers to help them better support people with mental health problems.