We speak much more openly about poor mental health and how it’s likely to affect us all at some stage of our lives. For the officers and staff of Bedfordshire Police, responding to people suffering from a mental health crisis has become part of their daily activity.
Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye said, “I talk to police officers and staff all the time who tell me of the huge number of incidents they respond to that involve people suffering from poor mental health.
“I am pleased that our Chief Constable, Garry Forsyth, continues to add to the learning and development of officers and staff with greater input about mental health issues, so they understand more about how poor mental health affects people in our communities. Just recently, we have made the Mental Health triage nurses a permanent support to Bedfordshire Police.
“The Bedfordshire Mental Health Triage nurses support the operators in the Force Contact Centre. A crucial part of the frontline response to incidents is via the Contact Centre.
“The triage nurses play a vital role providing advice and support to operators and officers when calls come in from people in a mental health crisis. Also, when calls come from family, friends or members of the public who have called 999 because of an incident involving somebody who is suffering from poor mental health.”
“Very often people who encounter the police are at the lowest points of their lives. The compassion and care from Bedfordshire Police that I hear about from victims of crime and from people who have been helped through some difficult times, makes me very proud of the work our frontline officers and staff carry out, in what can be very complex circumstances.
“In addition to our frontline officers and the Mental Health Triage nurses, our brilliant Mental Health Street Triage team work tirelessly to ensure that people in mental health crisis get the support they need from Bedfordshire Police before medical or health professionals can take over.”
The challenges that police officers and staff face when responding to a vulnerable person experiencing a breakdown in their mental health are well documented.
Not only are there medical issues to consider, the boundaries between mental health law and criminal law are often very complicated. Incidents can be complex with events unfolding rapidly. Often officers do not have powers in law to take action in support of people in mental health crisis, which is why working with partner agencies to find best the outcome for individuals is key.
The Commissioner continued, “I am pleased that the Force and I have agreed on a plan to make the Mental Health Triage nurses a permanent support to Bedfordshire Police, working in our Contact Centre. I will continue to fund these crucial posts during 2022/23 and it will become part of the Force budget in 2023/24.
“I am determined that the Chief will have the resources he needs to deliver first class policing in Bedfordshire.
“To illustrate how important these roles are, on one recent night, there were several incidents all involving mental health. Bedfordshire Police officers were deployed to a high-risk missing person who had made threats to end their life.
“Thankfully they were located, and appropriate intervention was made. Later that night, another vulnerable person was reported as wanting to end their life, and in this case, they were sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
“Elsewhere, other officers were deployed to help an intoxicated person who was putting themselves in danger and who was eventually taken for a voluntary mental health assessment.
“Another individual was sectioned under the Mental Health Act after putting themselves and others in danger, and a vulnerable person was found after a suicide attempt who was, thank goodness, without significant physical injury and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
“Day after day, night after night, Bedfordshire Police are responding to people in mental health crisis. I cannot stress strongly enough how important the support is that the mental health triage nurses provide to our officers and staff, and to the people who are in crisis.
“Not a day goes past when the officers and staff working to help people experiencing poor mental health don’t use their experience, knowledge and guidance to save lives in Bedfordshire.”
Chief Inspector Corina House who manages the mental health support into the Force Contact Centre said, “The demands on policing from people suffering from poor mental health continue to grow and it is more important than ever that we can provide the highest quality response to people at these sorts of incidents. The work our mental health team in the contact centre, and the mental health street triage team, do to support colleagues is outstanding and I am delighted that their vital contribution continues to be recognised.”