People with mental health issues can only receive the best possible support if services work better together.
That was the verdict of those attending a round table discussion in Westminster, chaired by Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott last week.
Mr Scott, Mental Health Lead for the national Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said: “People suffering mental ill health need the right support from the right person at the right time. While there will always be a place for policing in dealing with incidents involving mental health, we must recognise that in cases where no crime has been committed, the presence of a uniformed police officer will sometimes only make the situation worse.”
The issue of policing increasingly filling gaps left by other agencies was highlighted in Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services’ recent report, Policing and Mental Health: Picking up the Pieces.
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham, who was present for the discussion on February 5, said: ‘Our report highlighted how important it is for all the emergency services to play their part to provide a long-term solution to the current epidemic of mental health problems. I’d like to thank the APCC for bringing people together from across the emergency services to ensure people with mental ill health are given the support and protection they deserve.’
Among the agencies represented at the meeting was Public Health England, the RSPCA, and the fire service.
Mark Matthews, mental health lead for the National Fire Chiefs’ Council, said: “It was extremely reassuring to witness so many key stakeholders committed to the principle that the mental health challenge of our time can only truly be addressed effectively through an approach where Government department and organisational lines of separation are removed, allowing us to bring the full force of our combined creativity and dedication to meet the enormity and scale of the problem.
“A collective sense that there is a legitimate and needed role for all the blue light services in reducing risk in the communities we serve, through equipping staff effectively and ensuring that every contact counts, simply has to lead to more of a unified approach and therefore improved outcomes for those most at risk.”
Gareth Johnson MP for the Dartford constituency, who helped facilitate the meeting, added: “It is absolutely right that Mr Scott is prioritising mental health awareness. It is clearly something he feels passionately about. We have made some progress in recent years but there is still a long way to go before this issue is properly addressed. I feel strongly that a collaborative approach is the way forward and this meeting was an important part of this.”