Investigating Police Officers’ Perceptions of Their Role in Pathways to Mental Healthcare

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In the United Kingdom, one-in-four individuals with mental health problems access mental healthcare with police involvement. However, little is known about police officers’ perceptions of their role in pathways to services. The aim of this study was to examine UK police officers’ views and experiences of their involvement in mental healthcare, focusing on decision-making in emergency situations. Using volunteer sampling, we recruited 15 police officers from a large metropolitan conurbation in the North West of England. Semi-structured interviews, including a vignette depicting a mental health emergency, were used to elicit data. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed at the manifest level using thematic analysis, yielding three main themes: ‘Doing What’s Right’, ‘Challenges of Working Together’ and ‘Training versus Experience’. Our findings indicate that, whilst police officers believe they have a duty of care to protect people in mental health emergencies, they sometimes lack relevant knowledge, skills, and confidence in decision-making. Challenges associated with multi-agency working were also perceived as impeding officers’ ability to effectively manage these emergencies. Our findings suggest that strengthening multi-agency working and improving training might positively influence police officers’ views of their role and maximise their contribution to improving emergency mental healthcare.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Early online date9 Jan 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jan 2020