Newsnight film shows Beds Police reacting to mental health crisis on our streets

A Newsnight film yesterday showed police officers reacting to a surge in mental health crises in Bedfordshire over the coronavirus pandemic.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 11:16 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 11:54 am
Call handler Kieran Salisbury is among those responding to emergency calls about mental health   (BBC Newsnight)
Call handler Kieran Salisbury is among those responding to emergency calls about mental health (BBC Newsnight)

Bedfordshire Police allowed BBC Newsnight to follow the force’s mental health street triage (MHST) team as well as the force's contact centre.

The news reel showcases the pressures facing local policing amid a rise in calls to help people who need mental health care.

The number of police call outs over a serious risk of suicide rose from just one in January 2020 to 79 in April 2020; and to 289 in March 2021 – around nine incidents every day.

Separately, overall police incidents with a mental health tag increased from 586 in January 2020 to 838 in March.

Superintendent Steve Ashdown said: “Since the coronavirus pandemic we have seen a marked increase in people reaching out to us, specifically around mental health related incidents from the public.

“This has impacted people from every age range across all our communities in Bedfordshire.

“We work alongside our partners in healthcare to support people in our communities who may be suffering a mental health crisis, such as through our specialist mental health street triage team.

“We have also introduced a range of measures to support our officers and staff, who are undoubtedly feeling the impact of dealing with these incidents on a daily basis.

“It has been an extraordinary year which has placed huge pressure and strain on all of us in different ways.

“Support with your mental health and wellbeing is always available to people, regardless of who you are and where you come from, so please never be afraid to reach out and seek help.”

The Newsnight film focuses on a number of initiatives by Bedfordshire Police to provide mental health support to its officers and staff, as well as the public.

The East London NHS Foundation Trust runs NHS mental health services across Luton and Bedfordshire.