Report shows young people with mental health problems are being held in police cells (From The Northern Echo)
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Report shows young people with mental health problems are being held in police cells
CONCERN has been expressed at the number of young people with mental health problems who have been held in North-East police cells.
The report from Mental Health North East called In Custody shows that a total of 16 young people with mental health problems were held in police custody during 2011.
This is in spite of the Mental Health Act (2007) stating that this should only be done in exceptional circumstances, such as when there is a risk of violence.
The charity, based in Birtley, County Durham, decided to carry out its research after research by the BBC highlighted that large numbers of young people with mental health problems were being detained in police custody across the UK.
Requests for information led to Durham Police disclosing that five young people had been detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act during 2011 and taken to a police station. Three of these cases referred to the same individual who had been in the care of the local authority and was known to self-harm.
Cleveland Police disclosed that a total of ten such detentions of young people had taken place during 2011.
Northumbria Police disclosed that one young person with mental health problems had been detained in police custody during the same period.
MHNE's chief Executive Officer, Lyn Boyd, said: "Whilst we acknowledge that police involvement may be necessary on occasions, for example, when an individual poses a risk to themselves or to the public, we do not believe that a police cell is an appropriate form of accommodation to hold a distressed young person for a sustained period of time.
"We are also concerned that the number of young people experiencing mental health problems detained in police custody across the North East may in fact be higher than that recorded."
"Police and Crime Commissioners and police forces across the North-East are very keen to work with us to address our concerns and we have been very encouraged by their willingness to engage with our research.
"We will continue to monitor this situation and work with all parties to tackle the issues raised in our report."
The charity is recommending a raft of proposals including ensuring a mental health professional is present when assessing a young person for mental health problems in custody and ensuring that all other options are exhausted before a young person is detained.
A spokesman for Durham Constabulary: "The force is putting fewer and fewer young people in cells and it is very rare for a young person with mental health issues to be housed in a cell.
"This would only happen in exceptional circumstances if they were behaving in a violent manner and could be a risk to themselves or others.
"Young people are assessed at the earliest opportunity and if a mental health issue is identified they are taken to a notified place of safety within the force area. We aim to help them access the expert help they require through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services."
Anyone who knows a young person who has been sectioned is asked to complete an online survey at surveymonkey.com/s/BBFJJFZ/ or ring 0191-4928235.
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