A specialist emergency response unit which offers immediate assessments to suspected mental health sufferers in the West Midlands has been recognised internationally – after counterparts from Australia visited the region to learn about best practice.
The Mental Health Triage scheme sees West Midlands Police officers joined by psychiatric nurses and paramedics to attend calls from people who are believed to be suffering from mental ill health.
The successful police and NHS partnership means patients get on-the-spot assessments at their home or on the street and can be taken to safe health facilities for the support they need rather than held in police custody.
Everybody has “mental health”, but far too many of us have mental health problems. For many years this has existed in a twilight zone, both in society in general and the NHS in particular.
There is now a welcome desire and indeed some success in bringing it into the light. The effect of light, though, is to illuminate not only what is important but also to draw attention to those areas which, whilst no longer in the dark, remain very much in the shadows.
In recent years, there has been necessary attention given to issues such as anxiety, depression, relationship problems, how people react to adversity and so on. We have seen unprecedented investment in talking therapies for those with common mental health problems, and an upsurge of general interest in mental health, aided by campaigns such as “Time to Change” or “Heads Together”.
The families of two men with mental health issues who died in police custody has welcomed a report into how vulnerable people should be treated by emergency services. 32-year-old Thomas Orchard died in police custody in Exeter in 2012 and 25-year-old James Herbert died at Yeovil Police Station seven years ago.
The report into deaths in custody was ordered by Theresa May when she was the Home Secretary. It has stressed mentally ill people should never be held in cells.
Thomas Orchard suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and his family say being held in Exeter’s Heavitree Road Police Station made his condition worse. Before reaching the station Mr Orchard was handcuffed and bundled into a van. Moments before falling unconscious, a restraint was wrapped around his head.