A SOLIHULL-based Chief Inspector for West Midlands Police has spoken of his pride after being hailed an unsung hero of mental health by the Deputy Prime Minister.
Chief Inspector Sean Russell, who leads the force’s response to mental health incidents, was invited to Whitehall last week as one of 900 people who were singled out as part of a nationwide search to recognise and celebrate individuals who support people with mental health conditions.
West Midlands Police are leading the way in helping vulnerable members of the public get access to the help they need – teaming up with the regional NHS Trusts to launch a specialist unit that sees officers crewed with psychiatric nurses and paramedics to answer calls involving people thought to be experiencing mental ill health.
The triage team provides on-the-spot assessments, which has resulted in a dramatic drop in the number of people deemed necessary to detain under the Mental Health Act – last year the triage team attending almost 2,500 incidents and detaining just over 300 people.
Under Chief Inspector Russell’s leadership and the launch of the scheme, of those detained only five were taken to police stations − one of the lowest numbers for any UK police force − with the rest taken to preferred safe health facilities.
But, after picking up his runner-up award for the West Midlands region, Chief Inspector Russell remained modest, and hoped that news of his award would act as a talking point for mental health.
He said: “Our work is focussed on ensuring that people are able to access the support services they need and deserve, rather than ending up in a cell.
“Police officers are not medical experts, but nevertheless we are able to play a crucial role in the early treatment of those who need help.
“Mental health problems affect 1 in 4 people every year, but sadly many of these people still see the subject as taboo, and fear that talking about their experiences could affect personal and professional relationships.
“I’d encourage everyone to take five minutes to ask a friend or family member how they are.
“Together we can break the stigma and misconceptions that shroud anxiety, depression or mental ill health, and reassure those experiencing these conditions that it is a battle that they will not have to face alone.
“I’m incredibly proud of the work being carried out by officers from across the force on a daily basis, and I accept this award on behalf of everyone across the West Midlands making a difference on a daily basis,”
The desire to bring mental health out of the shadows was the theme of The Deputy Prime Minister’s Mental Health Hero Awards, to mark the launch of his ‘Time to Change’ campaign which aims to end mental health discrimination.