For those working on the front line as an emergency service worker, they are sadly all to familiar with the desperate calls from mental health sufferers. All three of our blue light workers, particularly the Met police deal with many calls from mental health sufferers or their family who fear for a loved one and what they either might do, or are threatening to do.
As vital as it is to have our police for an emergency, the all important question is, is this their responsibility to deal with? In February this year, Crime Czar Sir Michael Barber told police officers that they should stop behaving like social workers and start locking up criminals. Let’s look at this objectively.
You are a response officer called to a 999 call from a person threatening to end their own life. Your job is to serve the public so without any doubt you rush to the scene in a desperate bid to stop the person from doing this tragic act. It might be that the officers spend several hours talking to the person and supporting them the best way they can until they can access the help they need. Now, let’s go back to the crime czar and look at his useful words of advice. Police officers are to stop being social workers. So for those officers when they respond to the call and get to the person who clearly is in a terrible state of need, they now say to him/her sorry we are not social workers so cannot help you and leave. Clearly not.
Officers are quick to be criticised for their lack of mental health training compared to mental health professionals, but the answer is that they are not mental health professionals and forced to be as such to deal with the increase in people in our society suffering with many mental health problems. Once again it is our police force, in our case the endlessly attacked Met police who are dealing with these problems head on every day.
Last year, officers in the East Area zone of Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham and Havering answered 4969 calls that were mental health related. These figures represent just under 13% of calls a day that police respond to related to mental health factors. That is just for this particular basic command unit so multiply that by 12 across the London area and see the high level of calls our officers are answering to each day.
To work with the ever changing needs in our society, the Met is constantly updating its training and working with officers to provide more mental health training for them. But once again we ask-is this their role and should we have more mental health providers in our system than what we currently do?
It is important to mention at this point that for the last week and a half the Havering Daily has asked NHS England/London for the figures of how many psychiatrists and mental health nurses there are in the capital. Despite many calls and emails, they have failed to provide us with these figures.
Mental health facilities across the capital are doing the best they can under huge amounts of pressure and a lack of funding. To access counsellors/ talking therapies means a long wait due to the ever increasing waiting list. Local CCG’s work to provide residents in their area with facilities to access mental health professionals but are equally restrained by once again what appears to be lack of funding.
For those who watch social media videos and hit their keyboard quicker than Usain Bolt to attack Met police officers for not responding to mental health sufferers in the right way. Perhaps ask yourself this- what would happen if they weren’t there? Should they be provided with dedicated mental health professionals to assist them when dealing with mental health calls?
More food for thought……..