As police officers, we may come across people with mental health problems. To better support them, officers need not only to know what is mental illness, but also to co-operate with mental health professionals.
New Territories South (NTS) Region has introduced a number of initiatives in partnership with professionals in providing support to persons with mental illness. For instance, Kwai Chung Division (KWCDIV) has been implementing “Project Dawn" since September 2010 to improve its approach to handle cases of persons with mental health problems. The project adopts a three-pronged approach comprising Effective Identification and Assessment; Active Monitoring and Support; and Fostering Multi-agency Efforts.
In handling cases of “Insane Person Found", KWCDIV beat officers get background information of the persons and advise medical officers so that the latter would obtain the information required in making diagnoses and deciding whether to refer the persons to a psychiatric specialist. The aim of this approach is to achieve collaboration and effective identification and assessment among different service providers at working level.
Besides, a designated team from KWCDIV actively takes follow-up actions with the mentally ill persons. As a result of this effective support, the workload of frontline units has been greatly reduced because persons receiving professional attention are less likely to relapse and require police intervention.
KWCDIV has formed a Multi-disciplinary Community Case Conference with stakeholders. Apart from the police, members include Kwai Chung Hospital psychiatric specialists and representatives from non-government organisations providing mental health services. Through the Case Conference, the police, as the first response unit, can immediately draw the attention of medical and social welfare professionals to cases of potential physical violence. The aim of this approach is to provide an effective response mechanism and platform among different agencies to avert potential crises and prevent tragedies.
To make NTS frontline officers more confident and professional in handling persons with mental health problems, Kwai Chung Hospital psychiatric specialists have run seminars for frontline officers on Tsuen Wan and Kwai Tsing District Training Days, covering topics such as psychology of persons with mental health problems and the ways to handle such persons.