Mental report shock

BENDIGO had the highest ratio of people detained under the Mental Health Act in the state last year.An Office of Police Integrity report showed that 20 out of 1685 prisoners detained at the Bendigo police station were held under section 10 of the Mental Health Act.The report also showed that more than 50 per cent of those arrested were drunk or affected by drugs. Section 10 of the act applies to those who are not suspected of being involved in crime.It will only be invoked when police believe the person appears to be mentally ill and has recently attempted suicide, poses a risk of self-harm or harm to others.Shepparton and Mill Park police stations each detained 15 people under section 10.Senior Sergeant Grant Morris, the officer in charge of the Bendigo police station, said police received more calls for assistance in regards to people who have a mental illness.“No matter where you are, if someone rings concerned about mental health and the police turn up and make a judgment that that person is at risk of harming themselves or someone else, then they are going to detain them under section 10,’’ he said.“No matter where you are in the state, if police are faced with that situation, then that’s what they’re going to do.“It’s all aimed at protecting that person. It’s not taking them into custody for the purpose of processing them through the criminal justice system, it’s so they can be assessed by medical professionals.’’The report’s author, OPI director of police integrity Michael Strong, said he was concerned that most police custody staff were expected to manage those potentially extremely volatile situations without specific training.Mr Strong said although it was only a small sub-set of all detainees, it was of significant concern that individuals in urgent need of mental health services have to wait in a police cell before they can be assessed.