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Despite What She Says, Theresa May is Offloading Our Mental Health Crisis onto the Police

12/06/2015 16:19 BST | Updated 09/06/2016 10:59 BST

On the whole, I'm proud of our police force. Not in an idealistic way, I'm aware there are police officers who have done horrendous things, but I think they do one of the most thankless jobs in society for rather average pay. They may have the Police Federation, but they have no real union power like the Fire Service; the police cannot go on strike and for this reason alone they deserve to be treated with respect.

A few months ago the government came under fire for creating a situation where a mentally unstable child was locked in a prison cell for her own safety, due to a lack of space in the local hospital. After going to the Police Federation just the other week and practically declaring war, Theresa May has attempted to hand the police a measly peace offering in the form of more beds for the mentally ill. She claims that they "are not the police's responsibility" without a hint of irony.

Clearly under her definition of 'mentally ill', comes people who are a little bit sad, maybe very sad, but on the whole, sad. Maybe even crazy. By creating more beds it means that we can lock up the sad people in hospitals, rather than prison cells, until they feel a little happier. How delightfully simple, I can't believe nobody has thought of creating more 'feel happy' beds for all the sad people.

The point she clearly misses is that we spend a lot of the tax payer's money on pointlessly arresting mentally ill people all of the time. Not the 'sad' people, but the drug addicts, the schizophrenics, the homeless. One day people will look back on our generation and say: "I can't believe they used to punish drug addicts for having an addiction by arresting them".

I've spoken to police offers, something that I'm not sure our Home Secretary has even done from something other than a lectern, and they tell me that they spend about 90% of their time dealing with vulnerable people. Despite what Facebook might seem to tell you, police don't actually spend all of their time battoning students for fun. They deal with unlucky people. People unlucky enough to have such a bad life that they feel like the only way to numb the pain is to turn to drugs. People unlucky enough afflicted with terrifying and confusing mental illnesses, that may often result in aggressive episodes. These people will never know what it is like to sit at the breakfast table, munch croissants and read the Daily Telegraph - let alone in the presence of a loving, happy and prosperous family.

To say that the mentally ill are not the police's responsibility is a pointless gesture designed to get the Police Federation off her back. The fact is the police will always have to deal with the mentally ill; crime isn't just committed by evil bank robbers in stripy sweatshirts and balaclavas, and to deny this is to condemn countless people to a miserable life of crime and poverty. She should not be separating these two areas, but integrating them. As Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb says, the answer to the problem is to have front line psychiatric nurses responding to calls alongside the police.

This revolutionary idea has been put into action by several forces with remarkable results. One of these is Leicestershire Police, and on their website it reads: "The additional expertise is designed to come up with the most appropriate way of dealing with the individual. As a result, the number of people we detain under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act has fallen by around 40 per cent." This is real progression: a clear fall in the numbers of mentally ill people who are locked up purely based on a medical affliction.

But there is already bad news. Two days ago a scheme of this nature in Kent was axed due to Tory cuts to front line policing. Cutting back on all areas other than 'fighting crime' just goes to show that Theresa May has no idea what front line police actually do. These dangerous cuts will ruin the lives of people whose very existence is barely even acknowledged by our Home Secretary.

We will be judged in years to come on how we dealt with a crisis that was staring us in the face. I refuse to pretend it's not even there; I suggest that you do the same.