Earlier today the Guardian published an article (here) claiming that Theresa May is to put £15m of new money into appropriate, health-based Places of Safety for those held under s135/136 of the Mental Health Act (MHA).
£15 million? Straight into new Places of Safety?! Great! As long as this investment doesn’t overshadow the genuine need for consistent, high quality mental health services. I don’t agree with the practice of seeing people detained under the MHA taken to police cells, but I also don’t agree with people being left without adequate support, leading up to a crisis (and potentially a detention under the MHA).
We cannot carry on this culture of sticking plasters over issues and expecting them to go away. An increase in Places of Safety is warmly welcomed by me, however we need to address the underlying issues that are causing people to come to contact with the police in crisis. Of course every case is different, but funnily enough, ensuring that we have a supportive mental health system in place wouldn’t strike me as a bad idea?! I know that effective help costs £££. I appreciate the stresses and strains that the NHS is under, and that we would all love a system that works for everyone. Nor am I saying that changes to the current structure would result in no-one ever having a crisis again, or needing help, but I personally have no doubt that it would make a large amount of difference.
What I am muddling along and saying is that £15m isn’t going to solve everything. We desperately need sustained investment across the board, from CAMHS to crisis services, CMHTs to LD services. The pledge to stop people from being held in police cells is ‘fashionable’ almost, thousands are outraged when we hear the news that teens are being held in cells for lack of 136 suites. We often draw the “but would someone with a broken leg be held in a cell?! I think not!!” parallel. But all areas of mental health services need to be seen as worth investing in, not just a small portion. Mental health services are vital for so many, life-savers even (myself included!) and it is our duty to ensure that they are not failing anyone when they need the support.