Belfast Telegraph

More people with mental health issues are calling on police service

Co-ordination: Kieran Donnelly
Co-ordination: Kieran Donnelly

By Michael McHugh

The number of police incidents in Northern Ireland caused by mental health crises has doubled, an audit office report said.

The justice system here is increasingly being used as a service of last resort for those affected, the public spending watchdog revealed.

The total has gone from 9,000 in 2013 to more than 20,000 a year currently and frequently does not involve a criminal offence.

It reflects a trend of increasing demands placed upon officers as well as the PSNI becoming better at recording such incidents, the investigation said.

Auditor and comptroller general Kieran Donnelly said: "Justice organisations are increasingly working with individuals with mental health issues who have fallen between the gaps in wider public service.

"While the justice system is pursuing a range of reform measures to meet this challenge, the evidence to date suggests that more effective co-ordination is required between justice agencies and other key services, particularly health, education and housing services."

The report stated that sometimes police respond to an incident where an individual is exhibiting behaviour suggestive of mental health problems, to the extent that they are perceived to be a risk to themselves or others.

Such events frequently do not involve a criminal offence.

The expectation of those reporting the incident is that police will be able to manage and resolve the situation, the audit office said.

It stated: "Typically, the outcome is that officers either detain the person and bring them for appropriate medical attention or convince them to seek attention voluntarily."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph