Supporting police forces with mental health training

Next week (16-22 May 2016) is Mental Health Awareness Week – find out more about what we’re doing in this area.

The College is currently working on new guidance and training products to support forces dealing with people with mental health problems. Below, College lead for mental health, Inspector Michael Brown, also known as @MentalHealthCop on Twitter, explains how the police service can benefit from a greater understanding..

The College of Policing is close to publishing new national guidance (known as Authorised Professional Practice) and training on mental health for the police service – they will be available by early summer. This follows more than two years of research and consultation with the public, professionals and partner organisations at national level and represents our contribution to the Crisis Care Concordat.

Key to ensuring these products add value to local arrangements will be the commitment of individual officers and forces to work closely with their communities to make a difference. Most difficult within that will be ensuring the development of appropriate attitudes towards those of us who live with mental health problems, reducing stigma and discrimination.

We all need to ensure that as policing continues to develop its response to mental health related demands that we understand what we are trying to achieve. Everything about the ethos of mental health care in the United Kingdom is about reducing coercion and compulsion, and upon improving patient autonomy with respect for human rights. This requires forces to focus on ensuring all their local relationships to be developed: with those who use mental health services as well as professional and third-sector partners. The risk is that policing becomes over-relied upon as a gatekeeper to crisis services and the 'normalisation' of policing in our mental health system reinforces inappropriate notions of dangerousness, which can lead to stigmatisation of people with mental health problems.

Policing has a key role to play in ensuring wellbeing in society - not least because forces own a quite remarkable amount of data about vulnerable people. However, police involvement in crisis care responses should not be at the expense of making people feel criminalised for becoming unwell. A firm understanding of the legal principles put forward in College guidance and the associated training packages will help ensure this.

If you have any questions about mental health and policing, I'll be hosting a Q&A on Twitter from 8-9pm on Thursday 19 May - Tweet me @MentalHealthCop.

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