Mike Penning, Minister for Policing and MP for the Hemel Hempstead constituency, dropped into Hertfordshire Mind Network’s Wellbeing Centre in nearby Watford to hear from local people experiencing mental health problems.
To coincide with Time to Talk Day, the Minister listened to the first hand experiences of service users who had been in contact with police and other blue light services, covering a range of issues such as access to treatment, crisis care services and sectioning.
South Yorkshire PC Ian Stubbs and Sergeant Claire Ramirez from the North Watford Safer Neighbourhood Team were also on hand to talk about their own experience dealing with traumatic events and the importance of talking about mental health; as well as how there is now greater awareness of mental health problems among police officers which is leading to better outcomes for people in crisis.
The Minister will be supporting the Blue Light programme which will be launched in March this year, kicking off in April. National charity Mind have been given £4million of LIBOR fine funding to deliver a programme which aims to support the mental health of emergency services personnel and tackle stigma around talking about their own mental health. Staff in these roles have been identified as being particularly likely to develop mental health problems such as stress, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of the unique set of challenges the role presents.
Julie Nicholson, Chief Executive of Herts Mind Network, said:
“We were delighted to welcome Mike Penning MP to our Wellbeing Centre and are grateful that he listened to the views of our service users, whose voices are not always heard. We know that police officers have a challenging role and are often at the front line in situations where someone is in crisis. We are beginning to see more awareness of mental health problems and how to deal with vulnerable people and we hope that the launch of the Crisis Care Concordat will build on this work and ensure that agencies such as the NHS, social services, community mental health teams and the police are able to join up more effectively resulting in better care for those who are struggling with their mental health.
“Too often we still hear from people who have been inappropriately restrained or detained in a cell at the hands of the police, which can be a terrifying experience and often makes things worse. Greater investment in prevention and early intervention services is vital if we are to prevent so many people ending up in a crisis situation. The forthcoming Blue Light programme is also a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness and tackle stigma that will equip emergency services personnel with the skills they need to identify and tackle poor mental health in themselves and their colleagues.”