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Mental health - how we respond to mental health-related incidents

It is estimated that at least 40 percent of all calls to the police are mental health related. When a person is in mental distress or crisis it’s important that they receive specialist help and support from mental health professionals, not police officers. Since 2013, North Yorkshire Police has worked with the NHS and other partner agencies to vastly improve our response to mental health related incidents.

Health-based places of safety

Sometimes, when a person is in mental health crisis, they can be detained by the police for their own safety and the safety of others. In the past the only place the police could take a person in such circumstances was a police custody suite. Police custody is not an appropriate place for a person who needs specialist mental health care and support.

Since 2014, North Yorkshire Police has worked with the NHS who have established four health-based places of safety across York and North Yorkshire. They are in York, Scarborough, Harrogate and Northallerton. This means there are now more appropriate places where a person can be taken if they are detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act where they will receive the help and support the need from mental health professionals. 

In the last three years, we have seen an 80 per cent reduction in the use of police custody as a place of safety.

Why do some people in mental health crisis still go to police custody?

There are circumstances when a person in mental health crisis will be taken to a police custody suite. They are: If they have committed a crime; if they are unmanageably violent or aggressive; if there is no space available at a health-based place of safety.

Street Triage Teams

Mental health street triage teams work on the front line with North Yorkshire Police and attend live incidents where mental distress is a factor. This means a person in distress can be assessed by mental health professionals at the scene of an incident and if appropriate, they can be given on-the-spot help and aftercare. These teams have been established in York, Selby, Easingwold, Scarborough, Whitby, Filey, Ryedale. In the Craven area, a 24-hour crisis team based in West Yorkshire provide support.

Force Control Room mental health triage nurses

January 2016 saw the launch of a mental health triage pilot in our Force Control Room. Following its success, the pilot became permanent and we now have mental health nurses assisting control room staff, seven days a week. They help monitor calls and provide advice and support to staff and officers on the ground when they are interacting with a person in mental distress or crisis.

Their intervention can help call handlers avoid sending officers to an incident where a person is in mental distress. When officers are sent to help people in mental distress they are naturally anxious about leaving them – particularly if they threaten self-harm or suicide.

For some people who have difficulty managing their lives, calling the police has become a coping mechanism and they become repeat callers. Mental health professionals recognise that, and can often help them simply by talking to them and referring them to one of a wealth of services they have access to.

Connect project

The Connect project is an academic collaboration between North Yorkshire Police, the University of York, the NHS and other partners to research the impact of mental health on the police service. It was launched in 2015 following a successful bid for £1m funding from the College of Policing’s Knowledge Fund. It includes a trial of mental health training for front line offices which will inform national police training and is aimed at improving how we identify, record and respond to vulnerability; how we use police and partner agencies to best effect and refer vulnerability in an effective and meaningful way to address longer-term issues.To find out more about the Connect project, click here

York Pathways

In a partnership with the charity, Together for Mental Wellbeing, the York Pathways project was launched in April 2015 to address the underlying of cause of vulnerability and mental distress in people who frequently contact the emergency services. In December 2015, the project won the national Third Sector Care Award for collaboration and integration, which is a mark of its success in bringing agencies together to meet the needs of people suffering complex distress.

Find out more here

Ambition to become a suicide-safer and mental-health friendly zone

Police officers see first-hand the devastation caused by suicide and the ripple-effect on family and friends. Every death by suicide is a tragedy, but there are often indicators that people are vulnerable.

We are working with partners to make North Yorkshire and York a suicide-safe and mental health friendly zone, where people know that they have options to live a fulfilled life, rather than feeling that their only choice is suicide.

We want to help build a community where people feel able to talk about feelings of distress or suicidal thoughts, and that there are people who will listen. That isn’t only the responsibility of professionals, as every one of us has a role to play in looking out for our friends, family, colleagues and other people we meet throughout each day.  Simple friendship and support can make a real difference, and something as basic as asking if someone is OK can save a life.

Many of us – particularly men – will have thoughts of suicide at some point. This isn’t unusual, although few will talk about it.  We need to change that, because speaking about feelings is one of the best ways of starting the journey towards feeling better again.

We held an event on 28 October 2016 with the City of York Council to launch our ambition to become a suicide-safer and mental-health friendly zone. As well as professionals working in the subject area, anyone who was affected by suicide, either personally or professionally was invited to attend.

£178,ooo grant for safe haven in York

In October 2016, the Department of Health granted £178,200 funding for the provision of a “safe haven” based at Sycamore House in York. The safe haven will be a place where people can go when they are mentally distressed to receive specialist care and support. The new site will offer support for anybody who goes there, help prevent people going to A&E, and seek to support people before their distress grows into a crisis.