Canterbury Police are dealing with New Zealand’s highest rate of mental health and suicide related callouts

Between January and May this year, there have been more than 29,000 mental health and suicide-related callouts nationally. Photo / Getty Images

Warning: Suicide and self-harm themes.

Canterbury Police are dealing with the country’s highest rate of mental health and suicide-related callouts.

Crisis calls in the region have risen by 37 per cent between 2018 and 2021.

Between January and May this year, there have been more than 29,000 mental health and suicide-related call-outs nationally, data shows.

Officers attended more than three thousand callouts to Canterbury.

New Zealand Police’s 2020/21 annual report shows mental health-related events have increased by 60 per cent over the past five years and are predicted to increase by a further 44 per cent by 2025.

Superintendent Lane Todd said these calls take a significant amount of police time.

He said police resources are going towards up to 20 mental health and suicide callouts a day.

“Officers do get training and advice on how to deal with these situations but not at the same level as a psychologist,” Todd said.

There’s now a push for change as police callouts for mental health issues rise steadily.

Police Association president Chris Cahill said officers are not mental health experts and shouldn’t be the first port of call to respond to mental health crisis callouts.

People often contact police looking for help because it’s a 24/7 service that deals with emergencies, Cahill said.

He believes police officers are not the right people for these calls, as they’re not appropriately trained.

“These calls are making the job difficult for officers,” Cahill said.

Last year, police, Wellington Free ambulance and Capital and Coast District Health Board trialled a co-response team to respond to emergency mental health calls in Wellington.

The findings have found the pilot scheme was a success.

Cahill said this shows there are much better outcomes for people experiencing mental distress if experts are working with police and can take over the situation when required.

Where to get help:

• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Helpline: 1737

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.