Emergency calls show mental health system overwhelmed

Published: Tue 18 Oct 2016 10:58 AM
Emergency calls show mental health system overwhelmed
Information released to the People’s Mental Health Review shows that calls made to Police Communication Centres (“1-1-1” calls) have been steadily increasing over the last five years, and for the financial 2015/ 2016 up 50% on 2011/ 2012, from just over 30,000 calls to just over 45,000 calls.[1]
This represents one call every twelve minutes, every day of the year in New Zealand.
The Police communication centre can only assign one code to each call, and these figures represent those calls primarily coded as either “mental health” or “attempted suicide”. Given there are a wide range of reasons people with mental health needs call the Police, these numbers likely also under-represent the volume of mental health work that the New Zealand Police are asked to do.
“It seems like yet another red flag amongst many, and frankly comes as no surprise” says Kyle MacDonald, spokesperson for the People’s Mental Health Review, a community-initiated review of mental health services lead by a group of New Zealanders including MacDonald, comedian Mike King and community campaign group ActionStation.
“Our submissions are showing a clear trend of people being unable to access services in a timely manner," says MacDonald, "and of a workforce feeling overwhelmed by demand.  It makes sense the NZ Police would also be seeing increased demand.”
Just last week the Police issued a press release outlining increased training for their communication centre staff to enable them to better deal with mental health calls.  These figures now explain why this measure is needed.
“I think it’s a great initiative, anything that improves the services that people experiencing mental illness gets has to be a good thing.  But it’s also another sticking plaster on a gaping wound, once again other services are picking up the pieces because our core mental health services, especially acute and emergency services, are unable to meet demand. In our view this is yet further evidence of the need for a comprehensive, independent National Review into Public Mental Health services” says MacDonald.
For more information on The People’s Review of the Mental Health System:

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