Police receive call relating to mental health every two hours
PUBLISHED: 05:30 13 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:03 13 May 2019
Suffolk police receive a phone call relating to mental health every two hours, figures have revealed.
The constabulary handled an average of more than 12 calls a day involving concerns about someone's mental health in the year ending last September.
Data released under freedom of information legislation showed 4,567 calls were made for officers to attend where 'mental health' was flagged or cited as a factor.
On 278 occasions, section 136 of the Mental Health Act was used to detain a member of the public suffering from a mental disorder and in immediate need of control.
Meanwhile, officers applied the Mental Capacity Act 28 times by using restraint to prevent harm to a person who lacks capacity.
Figures reveal the scale to which mental health has become part of almost every aspect of daily police work, including the use of emergency powers to detain people for their own safety.
Previous data releases have shown Suffolk police handled 19,016 cases related to mental health between 2014 and 2017 - with 61% of all incidents falling under public safety categories, rather than criminal offences.
The most recent inspection of custody in Suffolk and Norfolk found staff dealt well with challenging situations.
At the time, a spokesman said: "Incidents in which mental health is a factor are a significant part of our day-to-day work and touch on almost every area of policing. We are continually working to gain a better understanding of the demand we face in this area.
"We continue to work closely with our partners in the mental health community at a local and regional working group level as well as at a national level."
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Suffolk Mind had previously said funding cuts against a background of rising levels of mental ill health in society had affected the resources of mental health services and the police.
In November, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services released a report, entitled Policing and Mental Health: Picking Up the Pieces, which raised concerns over the level of police involvement in responding to mental health at the current level, despite doing a good job in difficult circumstances.
Last month, funding was agreed for a new response team, made up of mental health professionals and police, to support high-risk and frequent patients in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds.
Suffolk Police Federation comment
The chairman of Suffolk Police Federation said he believes health sector cuts have made an impact on the number of calls to police relating to mental health.
Darren Harris said police officers are "not always the best qualified" to deal with incidents where mental health is a significant factor.
"Speaking from my own experience of serving, I would say it has gone up. We are dealing with a number of incidents because we are often the first port of call in such situations," he said.
"I think the rise is linked to cuts in the health sector, to the mental health trusts and in the community.
"Ultimately, we are here to preserve life and protect but police officers are not always the best qualified to attend.
"There is training around mental health for officers but I would say it's not on par with CPR or first-aid.
"If someone is in the middle of a mental health crisis, it's a complex issue where a number of things could happen."