Police and mental health nurses join forces to improve crisis response in Cumbria

Report by Andrew Misra

A man living in Carlisle says a new approach that is being trialled in Cumbria to help people in mental health crisis could 'benefit everyone'.

ITV News Border gained exclusive access to a trial where Cumbria Police and mental health nurses are working together to improve their response on the streets of Carlisle.

The early signs suggest it could prevent people from being detained under the mental health act in three quarters of cases.

'All I wanted to do was crash my car'

Joshua Wyborn is a wedding photographer who lives in Carlisle. The 30-year-old says he struggled with his self-esteem before he had a mental health crisis two years ago.

He said: "I was driving home from a wedding that I was photographing and just completely out of the blue, all I wanted to do was crash my car.

Joshua Wyborn

"I just had repeated thoughts that that was what I should do and I was battling them for about an hour along the entire drive home."

It led to him seeing a doctor and now he's on medication to treat his depression.

Street Triage team

For some people however, reaching out for help is too daunting.

So, the police and mental health nurses are teaming up to proactively support people in mental health crisis, like Joshua was.

It is hoped that the street triage team, a partnership between Cumbria Police and Cumbria, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear NHS Trust, will improve their response to mental health emergencies.

PC Chris Rudd (left) works alongside mental health nurse Katie Bale

The technique has been used in some other parts of the country, such as the North East and Yorkshire, but never before in Cumbria.

PC Chris Rudd works on the team and undertook rigorous training before the trial period started in May.

He said: "It's so different, it's so different.  The amount of change that you've seen. You've had the voice of the police and the mental health professional and all you had in the middle was a service user in crisis."

Police have powers under section 136 of the Mental Health Act to take immediate control of someone who they deem is a high risk to themselves or others. 

PC Chris Rudd driving the street triage van

But those powers can sometimes lead to unneccessary detention that is not helpful for the individual.

By taking this route, Chris and mental health nurse Katie Bale can mobilise and offer support where it's needed.

She said: "This kind of breaks down any barriers, we can share information with Cumbria Police and try and get the best outcome for the patient.

That personal approach is made possible by their modified, unmarked vehicle which allows people helped by the team can sit in the back of the vehicle and have a conversation in private.

Katie Bale in front of the unmarked vehicle used by the street triage team

And while the approach is still in the pilot phase, the statistics are promising. The team prevented people from being detained under the mental health act in three quarters of cases.

The key to that success is cooperation, according to team lead Philip Johnston-Blackwell.

He said: "It's a small team so they've learned each others strengths very much so. The police officers are phenomenal in terms of their care and compassion and their real willingness to go the extra mile for people.

Joshua welcomes the stability that the street triage team could provide to people in mental health crisis.

Joshua Wyborn

By seeking support, Joshua hopes we can all capture the vision of a brighter future.

If you have been affected by any issues raised in this story help and advice is available at The Samaritans or The Mental Health Foundation.

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