Report Urges Reforms: Police Intervention in Mental Health Crisis Raises Concerns

impact of police intervention in mental health crisis


A pioneering report, spearheaded by individuals in Australia who have firsthand experience with mental health issues, sheds light on the worsening situation concerning how police intervention responds to mental health incidents.

The revelations shared by La Trobe University in their comprehensive report titled “Police Apprehension as a Response to Mental Distress” suggest that the involvement of police in such circumstances often worsens the distress experienced by individuals rather than providing relief.


The study, which spanned a 10-month period from 2021 to 2022 and involved interviews with 20 individuals who had experienced police intervention in mental health-related incidents across Australia, distinctly emphasizes a shared consensus among participants.

This consensus notably advocates for a unanimous preference among those interviewed, suggesting the necessity to eliminate police involvement in addressing mental health crises.

Chris Maylea, who serves as an associate professor at La Trobe Law School and contributed to the research, emphasized a significant sentiment expressed by those interviewed.

Maylea noted, “The perception among individuals wasn’t that the police response was a form of assistance; rather, they viewed it as an endeavor to apprehend and remove them from the situation.”

“What these individuals genuinely sought was someone who would actively listen, engage in dialogue, and provide reassurance.”

The report delineated six key areas for reform, notably placing the exclusion of police as the primary responders at the top of the list.

Maylea underscored the inadequacy inherent in both police and ambulance workers, highlighting their lack of essential training and the time required to adequately handle mental health crises.

This inadequacy accentuates the pressing necessity for interventions tailored specifically to address mental health needs.

The report delineated six key areas for reform, notably placing the exclusion of police as the primary responders at the top of the list.

Maylea underscored the inadequacy inherent in both police and ambulance workers, highlighting their lack of essential training and the time required to adequately handle mental health crises.

This inadequacy accentuates the pressing necessity for interventions tailored specifically to address mental health needs.

Kraze recalled an incident where, during a psychotic episode, police employed forceful tactics, leaving him with injuries.

He expressed how a more compassionate approach could have de-escalated the situation, stating, “When I’m unwell, I’m a challenge, but I’m not a criminal.”

Panos Karanikolas, a member of the research team, shared his traumatic experiences being taken to mental health facilities by police, emphasizing the detrimental impact on trust in the mental health system.

Karanikolas stressed that police training and culture do not align with understanding and supporting individuals in distress.

The report’s release coincided with the publication of the Inner Melbourne Community Legal’s findings, which echo the urgent need for reform.

They advocate against police being the first responders in mental health crises, pointing out the criminalization and escalation of situations resulting from police interventions.

Molly Williams, Director of Legal Practice at Inner Melbourne Community Legal, highlighted the distressing outcome of police involvement, often leading to further escalation and criminalization of individuals undergoing mental health crises.

Both reports urge a fundamental shift in responding to mental health crises, emphasizing the need for early intervention, specialized mental health responses, and the avoidance of criminalizing individuals in distress.

The revelations in these reports come at a pivotal moment as some Australian states contemplate reforms.

New South Wales’ minister for mental health hinted at significant changes acknowledging failures in the current system, while Victoria is yet to implement health-led responses recommended by its royal commission.

These reports serve as a clarion call for holistic reforms that prioritize mental health-specific responses, potentially reshaping the way communities address and support individuals in acute mental distress.


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  • Report Urges Reforms: Police Intervention in Mental Health Crisis Raises Concerns