Liberal Democrat candidate for Guildford, Kelly-Marie Blundell, is campaigning for a change to the way we treat those with mental health problems, after figures reveal that UK police detained over 6,000 adults and 200 children with mental health problems last year.
Under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act, police cells are deemed “a place of safety” for those suspected of being mentally ill. Individuals do not need to have committed a crime in order to be detained in a cell by the police.
Kelly-Marie commented: “It’s an absolute scandal the way that those with mental health problems have been treated. I want to work with the authorities in Guildford and across Surrey to make sure that we are giving people the care and treatment that they deserve.”
Surrey Police has been chosen as one of the NHS’s pilot areas for “Liaison and Diversion” service, where specialist mental health workers will work alongside the police to identify those who need treatment. The service will support offenders, as well as those detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act, through the criminal justice system or by diverting them into treatment.
“I am glad that Surrey Police is benefitting from this pilot scheme and it comes at a time when many more positive steps are being taken to help those with mental health problems” she added.
The announcement of the pilot comes at a time when 96.4FM Eagle Radio has just announced that the number of young people seen by mental health services in Surrey has more than doubled since 2011. In 2011, over 2,400 under 18s were referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Last year, that number had risen to 5,248.
The radio station is now leading calls for more support and compulsory mental health education in schools. Personal, social and health education (PSHE), which covers mental health education, currently does not have to be taught in schools.
One young depression sufferer who is now on the road to recovery, Olivia Nathan, is grateful for the calls. Diagnosed with depression two years ago at the age of 14, she hopes PSHE will become mandatory in the future:
"If it became part of the national curriculum, it will make it seem like it's an ok thing to talk about and that it's not something that's weird, abnormal and crazy. At schools there are strong stigmas which can make mental health issues a lot harder to cope with as people just don't understand.”
Olivia's mum, Jane Nathan, and former headmaster, Richard Moore, have taken the matter of mental health education into their own hands. They bring mental health education programmes into schools, for parents, teachers and pupils.
Jane, who is the Founder and Clinic Director of Healthcare On Demand clinics (pictured) in Guildford and Godalming, said: "The mental health of our young people is in crisis and the problem is spiralling out of control. We need to have a coherent response and, if that's going to be a mandatory curriculum, so be it. We must intervene much earlier so we can help people to live healthily. It's not all about mental illness, it's about mental health and wellbeing.
Kelly-Marie Blundell added: “Mental health education and wellbeing is so important - if young people can be encouraged to talk about their concerns and the pressures that they face before they or their friends reach crisis point, it can only be a good thing.”