The Metropolitan Police responded to more than 130,000 mental health-related incidents in the past five years, new data reveals.
Labour’s London Assembly Health Spokesperson, Dr Onkar Sahota AM, who obtained the figures through a written question to the Mayor, said that they were “hugely concerning” and called for fully trained responders to be on every mental health callout.
Under the Mental Health Act, police can be called out to help deal with a mental health emergency if the person poses a risk to themselves or others.
Dispatch records show that officers were called to an average of just over 26,000 calls flagged ‘612 (Mental Health)’ per year between January 2017 and December 2021 meaning that police resources were used for mental health calls, on average, 72 times per day.
Around 1,000 more mental health crisis situations were dealt with by the police in 2021, than in 2017.
Dr Sahota warned that Londoners are being put in danger due to “chronic” Government underfunding and understaffing of the police and mental health services.
The Met Police recorded 28 total deaths during or following police contact in 2020-21, Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) data shows.
Among the 191 deaths investigated by the IPOC across England and Wales in the same period, 62 involved mental health concerns.
These figures expose “systemic failures” in safeguarding those experiencing a mental health crisis, while the Government seem “willing to accept these deaths”, the charity Inquest has said.
According to NHS Digital, there were a record-breaking 4.3 million mental health referrals last year- just under a quarter were for children or adolescents.
Currently, 1.4m people are waiting for mental health treatment across the UK – including roughly 375,000 children, NHS figures show.
Labour’s London Assembly Health Spokesperson, Dr Onkar Sahota AM, said:
“The police should not be responding to mental health crisis situations without the assistance of a fully trained colleague or medical professional. Vulnerable Londoners deserve access to the correct care from the point of first contact.
“Police officers do not have the right expertise to deal with such incidents, and in many cases, they are unable to fully understand how to deal with what’s in front of them.
“The figures are hugely concerning and underline the scale of the Government’s chronic underfunding of the NHS, mental health services and the police.
“It’s completely unacceptable that people suffering a mental health crisis, or police officers, are put in that position. A complete overhaul of the process is needed.”
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