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Mental Illness in the Community: The Role of Police

NCJ Number
Michelle Sced
Date Published
August 2006
12 pages
This paper highlights some of the issues experienced by police organizations in Australia in relation to police and mental illness in the community.
Despite the frequent contact between police and those with mental illness, the many responsibilities police perform within this area, and the fact that police are a major referral source for treatment services; police organizations are not considered major stakeholders in Australia's response to mental illness in the community. What is concerning is the current role and responsibilities of police in relation to mental illness which have not necessarily been defined by police organizations. Many of their current roles and responsibilities have evolved as a consequence of external influences, such as deinstitutionalization and an inadequate mental health system. If the role of police organizations in mental illness is not clearly defined, efforts or attempts to improve the police response to individuals with mental illness and pursue partnerships with mental health service providers are futile. Implementation of successful mental illness initiatives relies on the organization-wide acceptance that mental health response is a core police duty. Regardless, the role of police in mental illness has implications for the management, resourcing, and training of police officers. The intent of this paper was to highlight some of the issues experienced by police organizations in relation to mental illness. The paper begins by defining mental illness in general and in the community. It continues with issues on contact between police and individuals with mental illness, police responsibilities in relation to mental illness, police and the National Mental Health Strategy, mental health inquiries relevant to police, police mental health response models, and police training in mental illness. References