Posted: Friday 10th May 2019
On Sunday I ran the Bristol 10k something I try to do almost every year. I don’t have a lot of time for hobbies in this role but I do like to make time to run. I find it gives me space to think and always makes me appreciate the wonderful area we live in that little bit more. I firmly believe that running and exercise can help improve your mental health and with next week being mental health awareness week it’s encouraging to read that we’re in the midst of a mental health awakening in the UK.
A 2014 NHS study found one in six people in England had a common mental disorder (CMD) in the past week, while over a quarter of adults have been diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their life. Many mental health charities now believe that people are more aware and feel more empowered to tackle mental health. According to data released by the ONS, in the South-West some 17.7% of people had some evidence of depression or anxiety, when last surveyed in 2015-16. People may now feel empowered to speak out about their experiences in schools, workplaces and in their communities, however we need to turn this awareness into action. We know that mental health services are woefully underfunded and those experiencing a mental health problem wait an extremely long time to be able to access the treatments and the services they need. This all has an impact on our stretched emergency services, particularly policing.
In Avon and Somerset on average an incident involving someone in mental health crisis will take four and a half hours of an officer’s time. The majority of contact when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis comes into the police by the communications centre as 101 or 999 calls. The average time on these calls is 77.9% higher than the average call and mental health related calls take up 12% of all calls. Next week I’ll be asking Chief Constable Andy Marsh in my Facebook Live chat, Wednesday, May 15 at 5pm about the impact mental health is having on policing and how they are trying to help the issue. As well as how he’s ensuring the mental wellbeing of his own officers and staff who work in often tense, emotional and testing circumstances.
This week I hosted a serious violence summit with the Constabulary for all the local authorities, health, education and other partners across our area. It follows the initial summit I jointly hosted with the Home Office in November, with the aim of taking forward a more localised and joint plan for tackling serious violence within Avon and Somerset. We were lucky to hear from two officers from Police Scotland who talked about the introduction of the multi-agency violence reduction unit in Glasgow. It’s been well reported across the media that Glasgow decided to take a public health approach to tackling the issue of serious violence, which means working closely with the NHS, education and social work to tackle the root causes of violence.
Violence is like a disease, it becomes infectious and will spread through a community, passing down through generations, unless we break its cycle and deal with its causes. One of the ways is by providing better opportunities for our young people through early intervention and prevention in collaboration with our communities, voluntary and public sector partners. Barnardo’s spoke at the summit about their work in this area. Following a successful funding bid by my office to secure £495,000 from the Home Office Barnardo’s now deliver a dedicated support service called Routes, across Avon and Somerset. The service works with children and young people at risk of being the victim or perpetrator of a serious violent crime. Routes offers one-to-one interventions, targeted group sessions and preventative group sessions to victims and perpetrators. It’s early days for the scheme which went live in January but I look forward to reporting back on how it’s going in the near future.