A major seminar aimed at equipping frontline responders to better support women with mental ill health in the criminal justice system has been hosted by Merseyside’s Police Commissioner to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.
More than 150 ‘bluelight responders’ from Merseyside Police, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, the prison service, the region’s social services teams and a host of other community safety agencies attended the awareness-raising event which was run by Jane Kennedy’s office in partnership with Liverpool Mental Health Consortium.
It is the seventh mental health seminar run by the Commissioner over the last three years aimed at equipping those who are on the frontline of care with the skills to best help the vulnerable people they are called to help.
The seminar, held at Merseyside Police Headquarters in Canning Place yesterday, aimed to provide an overview of the hurdles and difficulties facing women suffering from mental ill health who enter the criminal justice system, highlight the support which is on offer and look at ways to tailor care and advice to make sure it is most effective.
The seminar was led by Claire Stevens and Sarah Butler-Boycott from Liverpool’s Mental Health Consortium team, which was set up in 1995 to improve mental health services in the city. It also included a presentation from Sharon Cooper, the services manager at the Women’s Turnaround Project, run by social enterprise PSS, which provides comprehensive support to women offenders’ to reduce offending and reoffending.
Attendees also had the opportunity to hear an account from a woman who had personally benefitted from the project, ‘Jeanette’ who spoke of her own experiences of entering the criminal justice system while suffering mental ill health.
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said: “I recognise that the needs of women who enter the criminal justice system are extensive, complex and distinct from men.
“Many of these women are vulnerable. Nearly half of women in prison have suffered domestic abuse, and more than half have experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child.
“Offending by women can be a sign that these issues – and the impact they have on an individual’s mental wellbeing – have not been identified or met. That means the services we offer need to be gender-specific, structured and supportive. We cannot simply replicate what we provide for men and hope it will work.
“We must try to understand the underlying causes and mental health issues that may trigger a woman’s contact with the criminal justice system. Supporting, guiding and assisting these women will, in the long-term prevent their offending behaviour, reduce the number of victims and lead to a fall in the number of women behinds bars.
“With the help of Liverpool Mental Health Consortium, I hope we have helped to equip those who are on the frontline of care with the knowledge and skills to be able to better care and support women in crisis in the most effective way.
“I’m pleased that representatives from so many other organisations were able to attend and I hope that it was beneficial to all those who attended as they return to work serving the people of Merseyside.”
Mental Health Awareness Week is held every year with the aim of raising awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues. The theme for 2017 is ‘surviving or thriving’. It highlights that only a small minority of people (13%) report living with high levels of good mental health and looks at what we can do to improve our mental wellbeing.
The Commissioner’s team have previously hosted events discussing the issues surrounding mental ill health, learning disabilities, the condition ADHD, personality disorders, self-harm and suicide.
Find out more about the work of Liverpool Mental Health Consortium and PSS's Women's Turnaround Project