It was the overwhelming feeling when I joined of not knowing what on earth I was doing, that got me asking questions about this stuff. I asked them of other police officers, including supervisors, but it emerged they often knew little of use. I have made it my business to spend time with psychiatrists including forensic psychiatrists, A&E doctors, paramedics as well as mental health nurses and AMHPs (or ASWs as they were) how we should operate in this area of policing. Anyone who would stand still long enough and talk to me, quite honestly.
I eventually found out that there are no simple answers and no-one was particularly working on policing and mental health. I had triangulate a multitude of opinions and form my own, accepting from the start that once I felt confident enought to begin expressing views, I would meet just some people who were prepared to die in a ditch before they would ever agree – even though I was trying my best to understand laws or guidelines and was representing back opinions from people who do their job. When you point this out – that other people who do their job disagree with them about the issue in hand – and that they are contradicted by their own guidance, you’ll be patronised and talked down to: what do the police know about mental health, after all?!
You’ll then start to understand the kind of paradigm we’ve constructed! There are some quite amazing health and social care professionals out there who will tell you that you were heading along the right lines in what you thought you’d read or heard – you eventually start to wonder what on earth has been going on?!
I decided at the start not to do this anonymously, taking the view that we should be openly trying to discuss the difficult issues we see at the interface between policing and mental health. Originally, I used to point people towards Chief Constable Simon COLE of Leicestershire Police for that – he was the national lead for the service on these issues. However, since beginning, this blog and my social media efforts more generally saw me seconded from West Midlands Police to the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs’ Council, as their mental health coordinators. I’ve since been involved in producing national policy for the police service, largely based on this blog and now work for Chief Constable Mark COLLINS of Dyfed-Powys Police who is the new national lead aiming to ensure progress is made on implementing this.
I’m interested the criminalisation of mental health issues and then extent to which we’ve expanded the role of the police as a de facto crisis service. I’m interested in ensuring that operational cops with their 8hrs of mental health training, can survive legal contact with this extremely complex business and do their best for patients and vulnerable people. Through this blog, I want to try and get police officers and health / social care staff talking to each other. It is years of doing just this in my own area that has brought me to a position where I feel more confident in knowing what to do, along with reading a lot of law and guidance.
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Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award.