Developing new approaches to dealing with policing and mental health problems

Posted on 31 July 2015

ICMHSR is part of a new collaboration between academics and North Yorkshire Police

Working together to improve policing

ICMHSR martin webber, collaboration on mental health

Dr Martin Webber , the Director of the International Centre for Mental Health Social Research is partner in a new £1 million collaboration between the University of York and North Yorkshire Police which is being led by Professor Martin Smith. Part of the £10 million Police Knowledge Fund launched to encourage collaboration between academia and police forces, York is one of 14 successful UK bids. Each collaboration aims to increase evidence-based knowledge, skills and problem solving approaches within policing.

The project Co-Production of Policing Evidence, Research and Training: Focus Mental Health will develop mechanisms to change the practice and culture surrounding recording and working with people with mental health problems, both criminals and victims.

Project activities will include: a series of ‘Research Cafés’ for managers and service providers to discuss their experiences in managing mental health problems and what they see as challenges, opportunities and potential solutions; a systematic review of literature on policing and mental health; evaluations of mental health triage, recording of mental health data and self-harm; and working with partner institutions to develop joined-up mechanisms for dealing with mental health problems.

Following this, the project will launch national level workshops to ensure best practice is shared across the UK, and the University of York will provide intensive training for police and health practitioners, including the development of a tailored part-time Master’s programme.

Mental health of criminals and victims

Professor Smith said: “According to the mental health charity Mind, one in four will experience a mental health issue in any year, and one in six will have a mental health condition at any one time. Over half of deaths following police contact involve people with a mental health issue, and people with mental health problems are up to ten times more likely to become victims of crime than the general population.

“Mental health involves considerable resources for both the police and other agencies, so we are delighted to collaborate with North Yorkshire Police and a number of Councils to address these important issues. We recognise that our goal of creating better outcomes in the area of mental health requires a culture change that will start by better fitting approaches to the realities of those who work on the ground.”

ICMHSR central to research relationship

Tim Madgwick, North Yorkshire Police’s Deputy Chief Constable, highlighted the existing ties between NYP and the University through ICMHSR's recent street triage project, saying:“We have also developed a strong working relationship with the University of York which has been forged in collaborations undertaken in researching and evaluating the Mental Health “Street” Triage work.  We now look forward to developing our work with the university and seeing the outcome of this important area of work.”

“A high percentage of incidents dealt with by the police are mental health related. The police are not mental health experts, nor can we provide the appropriate service for people who are often at their most vulnerable and need professional health care and support. We have already made great progress over recent years in supporting people with mental ill health through the provision of street triage services and the introduction of four Health-Based Places of Safety for people detained by the police because of a mental health crisis."