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Issue No. 374 October 2013

New team tackles mental health issues

A team is being established to refine Police's response to incidents involving people with mental health issues as the number of calls for service climbs.

Sergeant Dee Teao at the scene of the new artwork telling the story of her conversation with a troubled young man.

The Mental Health Intervention Unit, headed by Inspector Sue Douglas, will review our mental health-related training and work with other agencies to develop responses and prevention strategies.

Sue will lead three Police and one clinical member, probably seconded.

In July and August, Police dealt with 2170 calls involving people with mental health issues (a 13 percent year-on-year increase) and 2103 threatened or attempted suicide calls, up 21 percent.

Assistant Commissioner Dave Cliff, who has oversight of the issue, says the increases continue the pattern of previous years.

"In the 2012-13 financial year there we had nearly 22,000 calls for these two categories," he says.

"Police are often the first responders. The formation of the intervention team recognises this, and that our staff need to be appropriately equipped to effectively manage incidents and work with partner agencies to prevent people needing to call Police.

"People experiencing mental health problems requiring our assistance need the best possible care and we're in a strong position to ensure people are correctly referred to the right health agency."

He says New Zealand is far from unique. In Australia, for example, research found almost half of detainees may have a diagnosable mental disorder when arrested, including 42 percent of women and 28 percent of men with no previous diagnosis.

The issue is highlighted in the latest Police recruitment street art installation which features an officer talking a young man down from a bridge. Find out more about Sergeant Dee Teao's story here.

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