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January 2011



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Article Date: 01 Jun 2010 – 2:00 PDT

Mental health charity Mind is launching a new guide for police officers in England and Wales, providing practical advice on how they can work better with people who have mental health problems. Police and mental health – how to get it right locally, which has been endorsed by both ACPO and the Police Federation, offers simple and practical tips on how to build better relationships with people with experience of mental distress and provides a range of examples of good practice which can be replicated to suit police officers’ local circumstances.

People with experience of mental distress are 11 times more likely to be a victim of crime than the general population and are far more likely to come into contact with police as a victim rather than as an offender. However, persistent stigma and stereotyping means that many police officers too readily associate people with mental health problems with offending and crisis situations, which can mean that victims with mental health problems struggle to get unbiased and fair treatment when they are on the receiving end of criminal behaviour. Yet simple steps, such as drop in surgeries and basic mental health awareness training, can make an enormous difference to ensuring justice is served to victims who are among the most vulnerable and victimised in our society.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:

Research by Mind has shown that 71% of people with experience of mental distress have been victimised in the community, yet many said they were reluctant to come forward to the police about their experiences for fear that they wouldn’t be believed, or not taken seriously. Police can come into contact with people with mental health problems under difficult circumstances and may lack the confidence, skills and training to deal appropriately and sensitively with these situations. We hope that this guide will contribute to improving relations whatever situation they are in.

This guide should be essential reading for all police officers, and it packed full of ideas, suggestions and advice about working with people with mental health problems, ideas which we hope will become core in supporting demanding police work. We would encourage local forces to look at some of these projects, such as the appropriate adult schemes or expert-by-experience training and consider how they could be replicated in their own area, to build public confidence in the police, help officers better serve and protect the public, and ultimately grant everyone equal access to justice.

Chief Constable Phil Gormley, Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Lead on Mental Health, said:

ACPO warmly welcomes this guide, which is a really important piece of work that showcases some of the excellent police practice going on around the country. It is hoped these examples will prove useful to other forces looking to develop their policies and practices towards people with mental health problems.

Sergeant Kevin Huish, Mental Health lead for Police Federation of England and Wales said:

As the police have early contact with such a high percentage of the public who have one or more mental health problems or learning disabilities it is important that they have knowledge and access to health and diversion services. This guide can be an invaluable starting point for Police Forces to equip their officers with the right information to do so.



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