It has been revealed that police are having to provide a substantial amount of mental health care, due to a shortage of other workers and when no paramedics are available.
It has worrying consequences such as people being locked up for long periods of time until medical help can be received, when no crime has actually been committed.
The report warned that problems will not improve until mental health is given the same priority as physical health.
In the annual State of Policing report, it was revealed that police forces were “increasingly being used as a service of first resort”, and handled over 300,000 incidents involving mental health in the UK last year.
Sir Tom Winsor, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said that the provision of mental healthcare has reached such a state of severity that police are often being used to fill the gaps other agencies cannot.
Winsor warns that more effort is needed from other public sectors in mental health prevention. “By the time depression or some other mental disorder has been allowed to advance to the point that someone is contemplating suicide, or engaging in very hazardous behaviour, many opportunities to intervene will have been missed by many organisations,” he said.
The report stressed that prevention of mental illness was more effective than police dealing with call-outs at the point of fatality, and that this could only be achieved through investment in health services.
Mental health is high on the political and social agenda currently. In her first speech of 2017, Theresa May pledged to “transform” the way mental health was dealt with, and Prince William, Prince Harry and Kate Middleton have spearheaded a campaign called ‘Heads Together’, alongside YoungMinds and seven other charities.
With a host of celebrities such as Lady Gaga offering their own experiences of mental health in a series of videos, the campaign aims to dispel the stigma which surrounds mental health, and encourage people to talk about their feelings.
Prince William referred to a ‘stiff upper lip’ tradition he believed to be common amongst the monarchy, and perhaps if people knew that they are not alone, and spoke about their issues, many mental health fatalities could be prevented.
According to a force spokesman at Gloucestershire Constabulary, around 25% of people will suffer mental distress at some point in their lives and it’s been estimated that 50% of the people coming into contact with police will have some form of mental health issue.
Brandon Lewis, the policing minister, said in a statement: “People experiencing mental health crisis need to be supported by health professionals in the right place, which is not a police cell.
The police cannot provide the specialist care needed, which is why the government has invested an additional £1 billion by 2020 to improve mental health services.”