Police are struggling to deal with a massive rise in incidents involving people with mental health issues in South Yorkshire.
More than 4,300 incidents in which mental health was a cause or a factor have been recorded by police in the past seven months - a 19 per cent rise.
There has also been a 58 per cent rise in incidents involving vulnerable adults since April – with a 40 per cent increase in cases involving children.
A police report said: “The impact of mental health on police demand is significant and increasing.”
Deputy Chief Constable Dawn Copley said: “These are concerning figures and we have to pause for breath to try to understand what is going on.”
She said there was improved understanding among police call handlers.
They are trained to identify what constitutes an incident involving a mental health factor which may have contributed to the increase.
DCC Copley said in the last seven months, 35 people have been detained in custody in South Yorkshire under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act, which gives police officers powers to take in people who may be causing a danger to themselves or others in a public place and take them to a place of safety.
But she said the force plans to stop the practice of bringing people with mental health problems into custody by April as part of work with partner agencies to find them suitable alternative accommodation.
“We no longer bring young people into custody but adults are still coming in which remains a concern for us,” she said.
“If people are experiencing a mental health crisis, a custody block is not the ideal place to come in to.”
A police report said work is already under way to try to prevent people with mental health problems ending up in custody, with more than 500 people detained to an NHS ‘place of safety’ in the past seven months.
It said: “This demonstrates a considerable reduction on the use of police custody as a place of safety.”
New mental health guidance has been launched by the College of Policing to help officers ‘address the needs of mentally vulnerable individuals’.