policeA guide aimed at frontline police officers that gives practical advice on supporting people with mental health problems has been launched.

The guide, Police and Mental Health: how to get it right locally, has been published by charities Mind and Victim Support.

The guide follows Mind and Victim Support’s report At risk, yet dismissed, published in October 2013, which revealed that people with mental health problems are up to 10 times more likely to become victims of crime than the general population, and far less likely to report fair and respectful treatment by police. Many participants described not being believed when they reported crimes, being blamed for the incident or being discredited because of their mental health problems.

Police and Mental Health is a revised version of Mind’s original guide, published in 2010, and showcases examples of good practice where police forces have worked with other local services and service users to ensure the best possible support for people with mental health problems.

“Mental health problems affect 1 in 4 people every year, many of whom will come into contact with the police either as victims of crime, witnesses, offenders or when detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act,” said Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind. “Mental health is core police business and it is essential that officers feel confident when supporting people with mental health problems. We hope that forces and individual officers take inspiration and practical advice from our guide and make changes to their working practices, for the benefit of people with mental health problems.” 

Javed Khan, chief executive of Victim Support, added: “People with mental health problems are far more likely to become victims, and can suffer greater emotional impact when affected by crime. Despite this, they often feel disbelieved or even blamed when they seek help from the authorities.

“It is vital that the police communicate sensitively and effectively with this vulnerable group so they have the confidence that they are being listened to and don’t feel dismissed by the criminal justice process. It is only when victims come forward and report what has happened to them that justice can be done.”

Chief constable Simon Cole, national policing lead for mental health and disability at ACPO, welcomed the guide, saying that it is; “an excellent resource that can be used to support forces and partner agencies in developing their policies and practices to achieve this.”

Kevin Huish, custody and mental health lead, Police Federation of England and Wales, added: “This revised and enhanced guide builds upon an excellent must-read resource for both operational officers and managers. It contains examples of excellent good practice covering local initiatives, liaison and diversion, training and support schemes which can be emulated to ensure good practice towards mental health is rooted and routine in all areas of policing.”

Mind and Victim Support will be sending 32,000 copies of Police and Mental Health out with a forthcoming edition of the Police Federation’s Police magazine. It is also available online.