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Policing and Mental Health: Picking Up the Pieces

The police respond to people in mental health crisis every day. It is important for the police to recognise as early as possible that they may be responding to someone with mental health problems. That early understanding is crucial to assess the risk properly, and how urgent the response should be. In our 2017 inspection, we examined more closely how the police:

  • respond to and provide care for people with mental health problems; and
  • work with partner organisations to achieve the best outcomes.

We are in no way suggesting that the police don’t have a role in protecting those who are vulnerable because of their mental ill-health. This should be a priority for all forces. As Lord Adebowale, chair of the Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing, stated in the Commission’s 2013 report, mental health needs to be “seen as a part of the core business of policing”. But funding cuts have reduced community services, which means some needs are no longer being met. This unmet need means police forces are seeing unjustifiably higher demand for their services.

What we assessed

To understand how effective forces are at protecting and helping those with mental health problems, we inspected how well they:

  • identify people with mental health problems when they first contact the force;
  • identify and record the number of cases involving people with mental health problems to provide the right support; and
  • make sure expert help is available from other organisations, in particular health professionals.