'Mentally ill being held like criminals'
11:22am Monday 30th December 2013 in News
THE number of people in Gwent detained by police from public places because they were thought to be mentally ill increased in 2013, it has been revealed.
Information taken from a Freedom of Information request shows by the start of December, Gwent Police had detained 194 people who they felt were in need of assessment or treatment for a mental illness under section 136 of the Mental Health Act.
It is an increase from173 in 2012. The number of people detained in Gwent under section 136 has increased year on year since 2010. In 2010 146 people were detained, rising to 166 people in 2011.
Under section 136, police can move a person to a place of safety if they think he or she is at risk, in need of care and in a public place.
People can be detained under the conditions of the act for 72 hours in which time police can arrange a mental health assessment for them.
Ruth Coombs, Mind Cymru’s Manager for Influence and Change, said: “When someone is experiencing a mental health crisis they need care and support, not to be treated like a criminal. Often people are detained by police because they have attempted to take their own life. A police cell is a completely inappropriate environment and would be a terrifying experience for anyone, particularly someone who is already distressed and confused.
“We know police officers have a difficult role and do not always have the skills required to provide the care and support people with mental health problems need in these situations.”
A Gwent Police spokesman said: “Police stations are not the most appropriate locations for detaining people suffering from mental health issues, especially as many have not committed a crime. All decisions taken to detain anyone are made with the aim of minimising the risk of harm to the individual and any other members of the public.”
In June, a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary found an excessive number of people were being taken in by police in the UK under section 136.
Drusilla Sharpling, said at the time some people’s “only ‘crime’” for being taken in by police was their mental disorder “but they are treated in many ways as if they are criminals.”
A trial in Cleveland this year which sent out mental health nurses with police found 3.2 per cent of those earmarked as being mentally ill should have been detained under section 136.
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