Last updated: 26.02.15

Mental health training crucial to avoiding custody deaths

According to a recent inquiry, mortality rates among people held in custody under the Mental Health Act could be reduced if police officers were provided with the necessary training.

The report, released by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), looked at how the health, police and prison settings work to protect the human rights of detainees with mental health conditions.

It was found that between 2010 and 2013, a total of 367 adults with mental health conditions died of non-natural causes while in a psychiatric or police institution, while 295 adults with similar conditions died in prison.

What's more, the report revealed that the same mistakes were being made, such as high suicide risk patients not being monitored regularly, and ligature points - commonly used in suicide attempts - in psychiatric hospitals not being removed.

Following the findings, the EHRC urges policymakers and frontline staff to follow a framework to help protect people in custody. This involves ensuring relevant members of staff receive mental health training.

Michael Brown, mental health coordinator at the College of Policing, said: "There is a growing demand on frontline police officers and staff in helping those of us suffering mental health difficulties.

"While the police service should not be filling gaps in mental health services we need to ensure that we give frontline officers and staff basic training in identifying signs and symptoms.

"Officers and staff also need to be equipped with the knowledge of where to divert vulnerable people into a healthcare setting so that they can receive expert care."

With over 1.5 million online learners, Virtual College is one of the leading providers of online training in the UK. Our Safeguarding Adults e-Academy, launched in 2010, gives organisations the opportunity to collaborate and share best practice with a focus on helping ‘adults at risk’. To find out more, please visit: