mental health

Police Callouts for Mental Health Incidents Are Up 43 Percent Since 2011

Data obtained by VICE shows police are attending to record numbers of people in crisis as officers "pick up the flak" for cuts to services

by Mark Wilding
09 January 2017, 11:52am


UK police forces are being called to deal with a rapidly increasing number of incidents linked to mental health, according to data obtained by VICE.

Since mid-2010, police forces have recorded the number of call-outs linked to mental health. According to figures provided by 34 police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland under the Freedom of Information Act, the number of these incidents rose by 43 percent between 2011 and 2015. 

The figures reveal the extent to which the police are being called to deal with individuals in crisis at a time when budgets for mental health services have been falling. Research by health charity the King's Fund has found that funding fell in 2011/12 for the first time in a decade, and that 40 percent of mental health trusts continued to see year-on-year cuts for the next two years. 

Ken Marsh, chair of the Met Police Federation, said: "Local authorities have had budgets reduced by 30 percent. Who picks up the flak from that? The police. Mental health establishments and premises for secure units have been shut. Who picks up the flak from that? The police."

Simon Kempton, national board member at the Police Federation, said mental health training for police officers is "ad hoc" and called for investment to ensure officers are equipped to deal with the rising number of incidents to which they are being called.

Referring to the fact that all officers receive first aid training, he said: "I get how important it is, but in my 16 years as a police officer I've never had to give anyone CPR, I've never dealt with anyone having a heart attack, and I've dealt with hundreds of people who are in crisis to one extent or another." 

On Tuesday, VICE will publish a long-read looking at how the criminal justice system is failing offenders with mental health problems.