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In brief: Metropolitan Police to stop attending mental health 999 calls

Image of two Metropolitan Police officers walking by a pond
Connor Danylenko | Pexels

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

Metropolitan Police announces it will stop attending 999 calls for mental health incidents

The Metropolitan Police has announced that it will change its approach to responding to 999 calls related to mental health incidents starting from September, with police officers only dispatched if there is a threat to life.

The purpose of this change is to allow the police to focus on addressing crime and supporting victims, rather than dealing with situations that require expert medical assistance.

According to a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police, officers currently spend an average of 10 hours with a patient when they are detained under the Mental Health Act.

This new policy aims to redirect resources to areas where they are most needed and ensure that individuals in mental health crises receive appropriate care from the appropriate care providers, rather than officers untrained in mental health emergencies.

Humberside Police implemented a similar policy called Right Care, Right Person (RCRP) in 2020, where staff from the charity Mind handle mental health-related calls in the police control room.

This initiative reportedly saved 1,100 police hours per month and facilitated more timely care from the most suitable care providers.

While RCRP is designed to be implemented nationwide, some have expressed concerns that the Metropolitan commissioner has lost his patience and is potentially making the change before the right support infrastructure is in place.

Virtual reality mental health projects receive extended funding

The UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, has funded three projects as part of its Mindset programme, which focuses on developing extended and virtual reality (XR/VR) tools for individuals facing mental health challenges.

With an initial funding of £20 million, the programme aims to startups in bringing XR and VR therapies to market.

To date, a total of £3 million has been awarded to 29 organisations, with funding allocated until 2025.

Among the recipients is Rescape, based in Wales, which has created a VR-based ‘distraction therapy’ called DR.VR that helps manage pain, anxiety, and stress.

The technology is already being used in NHS hospitals, hospices, and care homes.

Another grant recipient, XR Therapeutics, located in the northeast of England, will use VR headsets to assist children with phobias or autism via exposure-like therapies – a type of treatment that literally exposes children to their fear or phobia in small, manageable doses.

Partnership aims to support NHS nurses in managing stress

Oxford Brookes University has partnered with the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust to create online resources aimed at assisting nurses in dealing with the challenges and pressures they encounter.

The resources underwent a pilot phase in a research study funded by the Burdett Trust for Nursing at the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, consisting of four sessions, focusing on topics such as emotional intelligence, critical thinking, well-being, spirituality, and resilience.

Participants were also invited to engage in small group mentoring sessions once or twice a week and were provided with additional reading materials.

The resources are scheduled to be discussed by the Oxford Health Senior Nurses Forum with the potential of being rolled out across the trust.

Study finds that quitting smoking helps mental health

A recent study has provided strong evidence that quitting smoking can lead to improved mental health outcomes for individuals with or without a mental health condition.

The study analysed data from US participants of the Evaluating Adverse Events in a Global Smoking Cessation Study (EAGLES), which took place in multiple countries between 2011 and 2015.

The study included both individuals with and without a history of mental illness who were smokers, totalling 4,260 participants, over half of whom (55.4%) had a history of mental health symptoms.

The results found that quitting smoking was associated with significant improvements in anxiety and depression scores between weeks 9 and 24, highlighting the importance of quitting smoking for individuals' mental well-being, regardless of whether they have a pre-existing mental health disorder.

Eating disorder group suspends chatbot after it shares harmful advice

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) in the US has made the decision to shut down its live helpline, including its own AI chatbot “Tessa”.

In recent weeks, social media users shared screenshots of their interactions with the chatbot, revealing that it continued to recommend dangerous behaviours like calorie restriction and dieting, even when informed that the user had an eating disorder.

Due to the concerns raised about the chatbot's behaviour, NEDA has taken it down and is investigating the reports.

NEDA had initially planned to close its human-staffed helpline on June 1, 2023, and had already dismissed the staffers and volunteers responsible for maintaining the helpline, which had been operational since 1999.

The chatbot was designed to provide cognitive-behavioural tools and prevention strategies for individuals with eating disorders.

Dr Ellen Fitzsimmons-Craft, who led the team that developed the chatbot, told the BBC that "it was never intended to be a replacement for the helpline, it was an entirely different service."

Military ‘gay ban’ impacting mental health of LGBTQIA+ veterans

Recent research has shed light on the detrimental effects of the military ban on gay people in the UK, which was only lifted in 2000.

The study, titled "Lost and Found – the LGBT+ Veteran Community and the Impacts of the Gay Ban," involved in-depth interviews with over 100 veterans who were directly affected by the ban, such as being dismissed from service for their sexuality.

The findings of the report reveal the significant impact the ban had on the mental health, housing situations, and job prospects of LGBTQ+ veterans.

Some key statistics from the study include:

  • 86% stated that their dismissal from the military had a negative impact on their mental health.

  • 74% reported that it had a detrimental effect on their finances.

  • 82% experienced intrusive investigations related to their sexual orientation.

  • 72% felt they were "vilified" or "treated like a criminal."

  • 65% believed that their employment prospects were negatively affected.

  • 56% reported negative impacts on their housing situations.

  • 84.4% expressed feelings of loneliness.


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