Police attending mental health crises need to form their own opinion of what is required …..

Inspector Michael Brown, OBE, known as The Mental Health Cop, contacted me over the weekend referring me to his latest blog post (link at the end of this entry) stimulated by our recent successful High Court action.

For some years now Michael has been using Sally’s experience of how she was treated by staff from the Crisis and Home Treatment Team at Miranda House on the day she died, in the mental health training provided to police officers.

In Sally’s final hours, when in acute crisis, following a “slipshod” mental health assessment lasting approximately 14 mins, the “quixotic” decision was made by nurses Patrick McKee and Gemma Pearson, not to admit Sally to hospital, despite the fact that this was contrary to her care plan and the advice of other professionals who knew her far better. When Sally became extremely distressed about the way she was being treated, banging her head and attempting to self-ligate, she became viewed as an irritant and instead of supporting Sally and re-assessing the situation, both nurses just wanted her off the premises as soon as possible and called the police to remove her.

Police are regularly called to situations not dissimilar to this. It can be challenging when they are instructed by mental health professionals to carry out actions with which they disagree. Michael emphasises that it is important for police attending in such circumstances to separately appraise themselves of the situation and form their own view about what the objective is, rather than solely take direction from mental health staff. Very often what is required is common sense, respect and basic humanity. Michael believes that police officers need to advocate for vulnerable people in mental health crises and push back against “known wisdom”, as officers did in Sally’s case.

When Sally was very ill, we were often advised by those who considered themselves to be experts in the field of mental health to “leave it to the professionals”. How often that phrase has come back to haunt us since her death.


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