Police and mental health responses to mental health crisis in the Waikato region of New Zealand [2018]

New Zealand police report a high level of involvement with people in mental health crisis, something that has been reported in the international literature in recent decades. Involvement of police represents a coercive pathway to care and is likely to be associated with use of force. The aim of this study was to investigate the clinical, legal, and social characteristics of individuals subject to police response in the Waikato region of New Zealand. Data were also collected on characteristics of police response, including use of force, time of day, and disposition. Use of force, most commonly use of handcuffs, occurred in 78% of cases involving police. The study showed that Māori were overrepresented in police responses, but no more likely than Europeans to experience use of force. Almost half those subject to police response were not subsequently admitted to hospital, raising questions about the need for and nature of police response in these cases. Because mental health nurses are often part of police response, nurses need to take cognisance of their relationship with police and contribute to any initiatives that can reduce coercion in the pathway to care, and improve service users’ experience in mental health crises.

Graham Holman RN, MN Anthony John O’Brien RN, BA, MPhil (Hons), PhD Katey Thom PhD

International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 10 February 2018