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Police call for more help to tackle mental health

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INCIDENTS dealt with by the police involving people suffering from mental-health issues are up 4% on the same time last year – and the force expects the increase to grow further as 2019 progresses.

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Officers are now compiling adult protection notifications – used to record encounters with people they have wellbeing concerns about – almost every day, with around 70% more being completed to date this year than during the same period in 2018.

The notifications can be used for everything from low-level concerns about the potential for someone to be having a tough time to recording encounters with people with serious vulnerability issues. They can then be used to piece together patterns and inform investigations if required.

As the Island joins the UK in marking Mental Health Awareness Week, Acting Chief Inspector Mark Hafey said he believed the Island had the right people in the right jobs to tackle the Island’s growing mental-health problem.

However, he said more resources were needed, not just for the police but across the board, to tackle an issue that is everyone’s problem.

‘Mental-health incidents year-to-date are up by 4% and I expect that to grow,’ he said.

‘There has been a significant increase – around 70% – in APNs year-to-date.’

Asked about resources to respond to the growing challenges, he added: ‘As things currently stand there needs to be improvement. However, my view is that we have the professionals here under the States of Jersey banner with the expertise and the desire to get it right.’

Reintroducing the community street triage scheme, where mental-health workers support the States police on jobs to relieve pressure on Health services would, he said, be a start and would compliment a 24/7 crisis-prevention centre currently under development at the Hospital.

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The triage scheme ran from November 2017 and was described by Acting Ch Insp Hafey as a success.

However, it stopped in April 2018, with the Health Department saying a 24/7 crisis service was being developed, but nothing was put in place in the interim.

Mental-health campaigner Andy Le Seelleur has previously questioned why the triage scheme was cancelled when figures had shown that mental-health-related welfare incidents were on the rise and suicide rates were high.

It is hoped the 24/7 service will be up and running by the summer. However, Acting Ch Insp Hafey believes the triage scheme should run alongside the crisis service and other facilities, such as a ‘listening lounge’ where people experiencing low-level mental-health episodes can go to talk to someone. Such lounges run in the UK and are not staffed by police.

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‘We would very much like the street-triage scheme to start again; our officers have done the training for it,’ he said.

‘There are also other initiatives, such as listening lounges, which they have in the UK. The majority of people that we deal with are probably at the lower end and need someone to talk to and they need someone who is able to listen effectively, be aware what their issues might be and not necessarily resolve them, but at least be able to give them some advice or a plan for the next day to help them so that they know there is something.

‘I personally believe a listening-lounge service in Jersey, coupled with a street-triage scheme, would prevent so many people having to be taken to the emergency department and potentially some people still being detained in our cells as well.’

Currently if the police detain someone under mental-health laws they have no option but to transport them to police headquarters or the Hospital in a police van.

‘It is a scary experience for people who actually haven’t broken the law,’ said Acting Ch Insp Hafey. ‘We have no other way of doing it. So there is work to be done around that and that I think would be a really good thing for the Island.’

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
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