1. ITV Report

Plymouth's emergency services join forces to help people in mental health crisis

Police and ambulance crews in Plymouth are taking part in a pioneering scheme to help people suffering from a mental health crisis instead of taking them to hospital or even a prison cell.

The pilot project, the first of its kind in the South West, involves an emergency response car driving around the city offering support to patients.

The vehicle is staffed by a police officer, a paramedic and a trained mental health professional.

The mental health joint response unit operates on three nights a week in Plymouth. Credit: ITV News

Whilst the paramedics treat any medical needs and the approved mental health professional looks after and evaluates the person’s mental health needs, the police will be on hand to calm any escalating situations and deal with any criminality that may have taken place.

This vehicle will improve the service to the public and reduce demand on the hospital and our officers by dealing with the incident together at the scene.

– Ch Insp Rob Mooney, Devon and Cornwall Police
Chief Inspector Rob Mooney is leading the project. Credit: ITV News

We know that we have a high demand on our mental health provision in the city for those in crisis. We also know when the peaks in demand are likely to be and therefore when people need us the most.

Often the three services are attending the same incidents, sometimes at different times, making assessments and providing the right care more complex.

We want to make sure that we are getting the right care at the roadside and that those experiencing crisis are given the best medical care and safeguarding support.

– Kevin McSherry, South Western Ambulance Service Ws

Last year a Government report called for a 'fundamental re-think' of how and where mentally ill people are treated, saying too often the police are left to pick up the pieces.

The scheme pairs police officers and paramedics with mental health experts. Credit: ITV News

It's about listening to people and because we've got access to information we know some of people's back story.

One thing I've learned over the years is people get very tired of re-telling their story. So we can focus on what's happening now and listen to what their concerns are. Sometimes it takes a while because people are very upset, and I think that's the importance of just sometimes sitting and perhaps you know giving someone a hug.

– Margaret Matthews, mental health professional
Margaret Matthews is a mental health professional. Credit: ITV News

Being able to assess the person’s needs at their time of crisis makes it easier for all those involved to achieve the best support and outcomes for that person. Knowing that we have the support on the front line from both a medical and policing perspective will enable our mental health workers to assess the situation safely.

– Sara Mitchell, LiveWell South West

If you are in distress or need some support, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 08457 90 90 90 or visit their website.

For those in the Republic of Ireland, the number is 1850 60 90 90.