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Police encounters with people with mental illness

Wood, Harry Nicholas Watson; (2002) Police encounters with people with mental illness. Doctoral thesis (D.Clin.Psy), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The closure of long stay psychiatric hospitals means that most people with mental illness now live within the community. The police are increasingly relied upon to intervene when people with mental illness are in crisis. Reduction in numbers of psychiatric beds and changes in involuntary hospitalisation laws have limited the options the police have when called to an individual with mental illness. Police officers are left making difficult decisions in an area in which many feel they are not qualified to intervene. The present research aimed to examine experiences of encounters between police and people with mental illness from the perspective of both police officers and people with mental illness. Twelve police officers and twelve offenders with mental illness took part in semistructured interviews asking about their experiences. Data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Both police officers and offenders described difficulties in their encounters. These resulted in feelings of stress and dissatisfaction among police officers. People with mental illness felt misunderstood by the police, that the police had mistreated them and that encounters with the police could serve to exacerbate symptoms. People with mental illness also described times when the police had been more helpful and distinguished between experiences of being arrested for criminal activity and being helped when experiencing psychotic symptoms. The findings are discussed with reference to previous research and implications for police and clinical work are considered. The limitations of the study are considered using guidelines for qualitative research. Suggestions for further research are made.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: D.Clin.Psy
Title: Police encounters with people with mental illness
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Psychology; Law enforcement; Mental illness
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099468
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