University of Central Lancashire

Helping police officers respond to people with mental health issues

In England, between 20% and 40% of all police encounters are associated with a person experiencing some form of mental crisis. These people often require immediate assessment and management, but effective communication between the police officer and the vulnerable person has historically been a challenge. 

To address this, Dr Ivan McGlen, Principal Lecturer at the School of Nursing, and Professor Karen Wright, Head of the School of Nursing, at the University of Central Lancashire, have developed the Public Psychiatric Emergency Assessment Tool (PPEAT-R) to help police officers identify and respond to people with mental health issues.

The tool was developed through extensive research with Durham Constabulary and the Metropolitan Police Service and was the first study to explore a police officer’s situation awareness when encountering a person thought to have mental health issues. During this trial, there was also a significant shift in police officers’ assumption of criminality, with the tool enabling officers to accurately respond to and recognise a person’s mental health and wellbeing.

The PPEAT-R is available as a double-sided, credit card sized document, as well as an android smartphone app. Using the app, the user may access further, detailed information to support their assessment.