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Concern over increased mental health calls to police

Lifeline is concerned to hear recent reports of increased calls to the police for mental health issues and agrees that it should not be the role of police to support those in distress, only those at imminent risk of suicide.

When people call who have suicidal thoughts, unless there is imminent risk immediately apparent, Lifeline always works with the individual to assess the risk and develop a plan with them to secure their safety. Mental health crises are often deescalated at least in the short term with an empathetic and caring response.

75% of people calling at risk of suicide do not require emergency services to be involved and in our experience, a police response can sometimes cause more distress when it is not the right service. Lifeline provides support and counselling nationally for people in distress, this has been our role, providing experience and expertise in this area.

Calls to Lifeline are answered by qualified helpline counsellors and well trained and fully supervised volunteers. We also work with regular callers to develop consistent plans of support and safety, working closely with police and mental health services where required and with permission to provide an approach that works for all parties.

As a 24/7 helpline, we are there to support people in mental health crises and other forms of distress but what we are noticing is that there is a lack of ongoing, accessible support in their communities to prevent these crises from occurring again, and a lack of integration and information sharing between key services. Lifeline would like to be part of the solution with the police and mental health services however would be reliant on funding to be able to manage the increased load and ensure all people in need of support are able to get their needs met.

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