IPCC survey reveals extent of mentally ill people detained in police cells

A survey by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has revealed that thousands of people with mental health problems have been detained in police cells rather than being taken to hospital for assessment.

The survey found that in 2005-06 more than 11,500 people were held in police custody for assessment under the Mental Health Act, almost twice the number taken to hospital.

Under section 136 of the Act, police officers can detain people who are believed to have a mental disorder (and are in a public place) and then take them to “a place of safety” such as a hospital or police station for assessment.

It is generally agreed that police custody should be used only in exceptional cases. However, the IPCC report suggests police cells in England and Wales are being used as the main place of safety.

Ian Bynoe, IPCC Commissioner with National Responsibility for Mental Health, described the situation as “intolerable”.

He said: “Someone whose distress or strange behaviour causes the police concern needs rapid medical and social assessment in a safe environment.

 “The continued use of cells not only diverts police resources from fighting crime, but criminalises behaviour which is not a crime.”

Louis Appleby, the Government’s National Director for Mental Health Services in England, responded by saying the Government has made it clear that police stations should only be used as a place of safety in exceptional cases.

Mr Appleby added that since the IPCC survey was carried out significant funding had been made available.

To read more on the IPCC report: Police Custody as a Place of Safety: a National Study Examining the Use of Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 please go to: http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/index/news.htm

Call for more mental health facilities to be built in prisons

Former Chief Inspector of Prisons Sir David Ramsbotham has urged the Government to build more mental health facilities inside prisons.

His call came after figures for 2007 showed that 116 patients in medium and low-security psychiatric hospitals in England and Wales escaped from the institutions or from their escorting staff.

These figures contrast sharply with the previous year during which just five patients absconded.

Sir David told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The latest figures are horrifying, of course, but it’s not one that surprises me because the medium and low-secure units in the NHS do not have the same degree of security as a prison does.”

To read more on this story please go to: http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/society/health/health+facilities+in+prisons+sought/2448032

Young lack mental health awareness says poll

A poll conducted by Great Ormond Street hospital has highlighted a large degree of ignorance amongst young people regarding mental health issues.

The poll, which coincided with the launch of a new mental health website for young people, found that almost half (46%) of the five hundred 12-18 year-olds questioned were unable to name a single mental health condition.

The survey also disclosed that:

·         many young people know little about mental health issues with most incorrectly labelling Down’s syndrome and dyslexia as mental health-related conditions;

·         boys aged 12 to 14 were least likely to name a mental health condition with 59% unable to list any;

·         half (50%) of girls aged 17 and 18 said they gained understanding of mental health problems from celebrities talking about their issues.

Responding to the poll’s findings, Dr John Goldin, a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Great Ormond Street, said: “Our findings are both worrying and surprising.

“This ignorance is probably one of the reasons why for too long now there has been a stigma attached to living with a mental health condition.

“It is important that young people feel they can come forward and speak out if they or someone they know is experiencing mental health difficulties.”

To visit the Great Ormond Street mental health website please go to: www.childrenfirst.nhs.uk/teens/health/mental_health

Talking therapies denied schizophrenia patients, survey suggests

Too many schizophrenia patients are being denied talking therapies and being treated solely with powerful psychiatric drugs a Healthcare Commission survey has suggested.

The survey, which involved 14,000 people with mental health problems in England, found that of the 62% of service users who did not receive any counselling, almost a third (32%) would have liked to.

It also revealed that almost a quarter (24%) of people said they were not involved in deciding what was in their care plan, suggesting no significant improvement over previous years.  A total of 16% of service users added that their diagnosis was not discussed with them.

On the plus side the survey stated that a large percentage of service users said they have confidence in mental health professionals, receive copies of their care plan and have a number to contact out-of-hours when in a crisis situation.

To read more about the Healthcare Commission survey please go to: http://www.healthcarecommission.org.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases.cfm?cit_id=6544&widCall1=customWidgets.content_view_1&usecache=false