A report released by HMICSFRS today (Tuesday 27 November) has highlighted how police forces are increasingly bearing the burden of supporting people struggling with their mental health.
Within Cheshire, officers respond on a daily basis to calls where people are mental health crisis and are unable to access mainstreams services, as well as dealing with incidents and crimes where the underlying issue is one of poor mental health.
Acting Chief Constable Janette McCormick said: "It is often the case that those who experience a mental health crisis will come into contact the police, so officers clearly have a huge role to play in supporting those individuals.
"In Cheshire we’ve made considerable investment in training our officers and staff in how to recognise signs of mental ill health, and understand how that impacts on their actions. We’ve taught our officers how to support those in need, and put schemes and protocols in place that help to ensure our response to any such incident is both effective and compassionate.
"For some time we have implemented a street triage system that identifies mental health and provides the necessary support. Furthermore, we launched the Herbert Protocol in Cheshire last year, which enables us to respond as effectively as possible in the event of a person living with dementia going missing.
"Having said that, police officers are obviously not the experts in mental health and an over-reliance on police to fill the gaps in other services can have a huge impact on demand. For example, an officer may be detained for hours at hospital while someone involved in a crime is experiencing a mental health crisis – time which could be spent elsewhere.
"It is important to recognise the report also shows the links between those with mental issues and victims of crime, such as through County Lines where young people and those with mental health issues are exploited by organised crime groups to deal drugs, as well as the link between domestic abuse and mental health.
" It is therefore important to me that in Cheshire we continue to work with colleagues in other services to identify ways in which together we can improve the overall support available to those suffering with mental ill health, while minimising the impact on day to day policing."