Observing People with Mental Health Issues in Custody Encouraged a Copper to Start an Award-Winning Blog

Michael Brown: beyond the call of duty

The blog was initially conceived a year ago as an attempt to provide an online space where police officers could access clear, informed advice on how to deal with incidents involving people with mental health difficulties. Brown describes it as “by a cop interested in mental health issues, for cops who have to deal with mental health incidents”.

“It might be people who maybe present a risk to themselves or [are] expressing suicidal ideas. Or [a situation] where some kind of emergency intervention is needed,” Brown says of the kind of incident a police officer might encounter.

He refers to officers as “street-corner psychiatrists”, who are often first at a scene when a person might need expert medical attention from mental health professionals. Brown says it is “essential” that police officers are equipped to cope. Providing an online resource that officers feel happy to consult is, he suggests, one way of helping that happen. With this in mind, the blog is packed with more than 200 articles touching on issues ranging from the use of physical force by officers to the prevalence of mental health problems within the force itself. Alongside these are practical tools such as an FAQs section and digested guides to complex aspects of mental health legislation.

The fact that mental health problems can be extremely complex and that symptoms might not be obvious to an officer arriving at the scene makes it a confounding area, Brown argues. Add to this that mental health legislation seems opaque and perplexing to many officers, and it is understandable that some feel out of their depth.

by Mary O’Hara, The Guardian

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