EDINBURGH (Sputnik), Mark Hirst – Lack of resources and police training to help officers deal with people with mental health conditions in custody has been branded as "shameful" by Rethink Mental Illness, a leading UK mental health charity.
"It's shameful that thousands of people with mental health problems, including children, are ending up in police cells each year because they can't get the support they need," Brian Semple, a senior spokesman for the charity told Sputnik Monday.
Semple stressed that the issue arose due to historical lack of funding for mental health services in the United Kingdom and budget cut in real-terms each year for the past three years.
"Mental illness accounts for 23% of the total impact of ill health in the UK, but gets only 13% of the NHS budget. As a result, the mental health system is desperately overstretched and too often people can't get the right support," Semple added.
The charity was responding after Assistant Chief Constable Paul Netherton from Devon and Cornwall Police told Sky News that his officers were spending around 20 percent of their time dealing with people with mental health issues, despite officers lacking the training and resources to do so effectively. Netherton placed the blame for the problem at the UK Government's so-called "austerity" policies.
"Certainly over the last few years that tension has been growing. We are all in austerity. We understand that," Netherton was quoted as saying by Sky News.
Semple told Sputnik that additional money for funding mental health services for young people announced in recent days would help, but stressed the level of care needed to be matched across the entire spectrum of people coping with mental health issues.
"In recent days, we've seen encouraging signs that the Government is trying to address that funding discrepancy with the promise of an extra £1.25 billion [$1.85 billion] funding for young people's mental health services," Semple said.
"But we know that investment and transformation of care needs to happen right across the board so that everyone experiencing mental health problems can get the help they need," Semple told Sputnik.
Marjorie Thompson from the Mental Health Foundation told Sputnik another problem was the lack of uniformity by police across the UK in dealing with people with mental health problems. She told Sputnik the National Health Service, police and local authorities had different ways of managing the issue.
"We are currently working with the Crisis Care Concordat and that sets out how all the agencies can work together, including the NHS, Police and local authorities who are responsible for health a social care," Thompson said, adding that "there are different manifestations of dedicated services that encompass police and medical staff."
In February, a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that hundreds of people with mental health problems had died of "non-natural causes" in secure psychiatric units, prisons and police cells as a result of staff not properly trained to deal with them.
The Commission concluded that most of the 662 deaths of people with mental health conditions who died in custody between 2010 and 2013 could have been prevented with "simple interventions".