28% rise in cases places intolerable strain on forces
The National Chair of the Police Federation has called for a review of what he has called a ‘growing mental health crisis’ as new figures revealed police officers dealt with 28% more cases in the last four years.
An Institute for Government Performance Tracker 2019 survey found the number of mental health incidents involving police officers rose from 385,206 to 494,159 between 2014-18 and there was also an 13% increase in the number of individuals taken to a place of safety by officers under the Mental Health Act.
Chair John Apter said: “This country is in the grip of a growing mental health crisis and my colleagues are at the very forefront of trying to protect and support vulnerable people. These figures show we have reached beyond tipping point, and we would welcome a wider public investigation into these important issues.
“My colleagues are professional, dedicated individuals who would never turn their backs on somebody in crisis. Most people think a police officer’s time is used in dealing solely with crime. However, about 80 per cent is spent dealing with non-crime related incidents involving mental health situations.
“These situations are extremely complex and often involve individuals in such a state of despair they may wish to end their own lives or hurt other people. I personally know from 27 years of service as a police officer just how emotionally distressing these situations are for my colleagues.
“There is simply not enough investment in the mental health support system for the right number of qualified health professionals to give proper assistance to those who need it. Police officers regularly fill in for shortfalls in the mental health support system, even when we are perhaps not the most appropriate service.
“Those individuals with mental health issues should instead be afforded the proper care and attention which welfare services should be providing. They are patients, not prisoners.
“We therefore urgently need a fresh investigation into this growing issue, where the emphasis must be on providing the best medical option for those in desperate need.”