Suffolk Constabulary received more than 4,300 mental health related emergency calls in 2017

Suffolk Constabulary's control room, where emergency calls at dealt with. Picture: LAUREN DE BOISE

Suffolk Constabulary's control room, where emergency calls at dealt with. Picture: LAUREN DE BOISE - Credit: Archant

A senior officer at Suffolk Constabulary has said dealing with mental illness has become an integral part of modern policing.

Ezra Hewing of Suffolk Mind. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ezra Hewing of Suffolk Mind. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Chief superintendent Jen Eves made the remark after new figures revealed the force received more than 4,300 emergency calls in 2017 where psychological problems were deemed to be a factor.

But Ch Supt Eves said the true prevalence was likely to be much higher, as these statistics showed incidents in which the mental health element was obvious to officers from the get-go.

She said: “These figures from initial incident reports are not a complete reflection of the demand we face in this area and a more thorough analysis of these incidents is required to get a true picture of what police forces are dealing with.

“Mental health elements of an incident are not always established at the outset of a call or incident, but sometimes at a later point in time, such as in custody, or through victim support services.

“Incidents in which mental health is a factor are a significant part of our day to day work and touch on almost every area of policing.”

Ch Supt Eves said Suffolk Constabulary was continually working to gain a better understanding of the demand it faced in this area, including future plans to conduct a number of detailed data studies from recorded incidents.

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In recent years the force has taken actions to improve its response to those in crisis, such as introducing a mental health triage car, bringing nurses into the control room and giving officers specialist training.

Ezra Hewing, head of mental health education at charity Suffolk Mind, said these were steps in the right direction.

He added: “The reality for the police is that as rates of stress, anxiety and depression rise, and with them more severe mental health conditions, they are going to come into contact with distressed people and will require better knowledge and skills to meet this challenge.

“This is true for the people of Suffolk in general – we all need to understand that good mental health depends upon having emotional needs met and to have the skills to support people experiencing distress – especially when unavailable funds leads to a reduction in services.”

The figures relate to the period from January 1, 2017 to December 11, 2017.