1. ITV Report

How do we fix Wales’ emergency mental health care?

Chris knows first-hand what it's like to need emergency mental health care. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

There are calls for a mental health sanctuary to be made available in Wales for people experiencing an out-of-hours emergency crisis.

Individuals in need currently end up in A&E or being dealt with by police but this can be a drain on resources and distressing for the people affected.

What is a mental health sanctuary?

  • A Sanctuary provides a safe place for individuals experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis. It offers practical and emotional support in a safe and welcoming environment.

One police force who are leading the way in mental health is Dyfed Powys Police.

1 in 10
999 calls are linked to mental health issues.
Dyfed Powys' mental health street triage team are responding to an ever rising number of mental health incidents. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

They run a mental health street triage unit in West Wales. The idea is to work with call handlers to relieve pressure on officers who are working on the ground responding to an ever rising number of mental health incidents.

Sue and Shelley work on the mental health street triage team. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

In a report by the police inspectorate, HMICFRS, four Welsh police forces found on average just over one in ten 999 calls are linked to mental health issues. Each call takes around 3 hours to deal with, costing the police here more than £2.5million a year.

Six years ago Chris needed out-of-hours help. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Chris Boobyer from Cardiff has learning difficulties and depression. Six years ago he needed help out-of-hours. He was desperate for support which led him to jumping in front of a car. He was put in a police cell - not for punishment but for his own protection after trying to take his own life.

“I ended up diving in front of a car to get the police to take me in to get help, and ended up in a police cell for two days, The police had to section me and put me in their cells for my safety more than anything.“

He says being in a cell was “horrible, because you haven't got anything you're just sat in a tiny room. The sergeant checks on you once every hour - that's it.

If there was a place you could go in the night for help, an out-of-hours service that would have helped because I wouldn't have been stuck in a cell.”

He wants a sanctuary model to be made available for people with mental health problems.

The charity Hafal says there’s already a suitable building in Cardiff which could become Wales’ first mental health Sanctuary. They say it could relieve pressure on the police and A&E

Hafal want to open Wales’ first mental health Sanctuary. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Lianne Martynski from the charity says the building would offer a safe space for individuals.

“It’s all about that safe space. The building, it's practically purpose built. Putting them in a police car, you taking them to A&E, they have to wait in A&E. The build-up of that anxiety is going to get worse and worse, so if you being them here, it may be they need to go to A&E, it may be that actually this isn’t the place for them, but it’s a good start.”A two-year pilot has been proposed by Hafal. The sanctuary would be staffed Friday to Monday during the evening and nights with a combination of staff and volunteers. The proposed project would cost £350,000 a year to run.

The Welsh Government say they are considering a Sanctuary model amongst other approaches,

We are working with partners, including the police forces in Wales and the third sector, to consider the most appropriate responses for people in mental health crisis, including the Sanctuary model amongst other approaches.

– Welsh Government Spokesperson

Watch Andrea Byrne's report here: