Suffolk police see rise in mental health calls since start of pandemic
- Credit: Lauren De Boise
Suffolk Constabulary's control room has seen an increase in the number of mental health-related calls over the pandemic, data has revealed.
According to information obtained in a Freedom of Information request, the constabulary received 4,564 calls related to mental health between March 23 last year - the date of first lockdown announcement - and December 1.
The control room took 3,625 during the same period in 2019 – meaning calls increased by 25% during the pandemic.
The number of calls increased the most later into the year, with August (629), October (632) and November (658) seeing the highest volume of calls.
Similar rises have also been seen for domestic abuse reports, with data for Ipswich and south Suffolk revealing the constabulary saw a 27% increase annually from 2019 to 2020 (from 2,867 to 3,655).
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Chief inspector Nigel Huddlestone, from the force's control room, said mental health incidents make up a "significant part" of their day-to-day work, while the volume of calls have fluctuated over the pandemic.
He said: “While we have received an increase in calls throughout the pandemic, the volume continues to fluctuate - so with this in mind, we will continue to work to gain a better understanding of the demand we face in this area with support from relevant partners.
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“Our officers strive every day to protect the vulnerable, often in difficult and complex situations on the frontline, working with our health partners to ensure people receive the treatment and support they need."
Ch Insp Huddlestone added the constabulary continues to work closely with health partners, and regularly assess and review the impact of mental health demand on their "already stretched resources".
He added: “It is only through a collective effort will we make sure that those who need mental health support receive the very best service possible.”
Aside from policing, Suffolk Mind chief executive Jon Neal said their research has shown the number of people susceptible to stress has doubled since the outbreak of the virus – meaning half of the local population are at risk of mild or moderate ill health.
Mr Neal added he is "not surprised" to see the number of calls to police increase.
He said: “The long-term solution, however, is to prevent mental ill health from happening in the first place.
"We can do this by raising awareness of our emotional needs and how to meet them in healthy ways, and by creating workplaces, schools and communities that are environments which enable those emotional needs to be met.”
Those in need of support can access the charity's free Night Owl service here.