‘We need help dealing with this problem’

John Apter, chairman of Hampshire Police Federation
John Apter, chairman of Hampshire Police Federation
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A CALL has gone out for police in Hampshire to be given more support to help people with mental health conditions.

Hampshire Police Federation chairman John Apter said officers cannot be expected to deal with all incidents and need more help from local authorities.

It comes as new figures reveal police in the county attended 9,597 incidents last year where the call-out involved a person with a mental health condition.

Mr Apter said: ‘Mental health is a really big issue and it demands many of our officers’ hours.

‘We are far better than we used to be and we give training to our officers, but the fact is they are not experts.

‘They know the basics, but there are others in the public sector who are far better equipped with a background in mental health issues.’

Of the 28 forces which responded to Freedom of Information requests by think tank Parliament Street, Hampshire had the 11th highest number of incidents.

Mr Apter added: ‘If we are dealing with someone in crisis at 3am in the morning, many other departments are not available.’

Richard Barritt, chief executive of Solent Mind, said more funding should be given to preventative services such as housing support.

He added: ‘People with mental health issues tell us that the police provide a good service, especially when they work in direct contact with mental health services, but it shouldn’t be the job of the police to deal with 10,000 mental health-related incidents in Hampshire.’

A government spokesman said £30m was being invested in provide places of safety for those with mental health conditions.

In 2013 former police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes called for the NHS to do more to ensure patients with mental illnesses were not detained in police cells unnecessarily. He was speaking after the BBC’s Panorama screened Locked Up For Being Ill?, a documentary that was filmed in Hampshire. The programme argued that many people in police custody should be treated instead by psychiatric professionals.