Police across Scotland are dealing with a surge in mental health incidents, new figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives have shown.
Statistics released following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request have shown a 15% increase across all area commands in the last two years.
The average number of incidents reported across the country was 262 per week in 2017/18, 301 per week in 2018/19 and 374 per week so far in 2019/20.
The findings follow concerns raised by Angus MP Kirstene Hair, who has written to Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to raise concerns about officers being pulled away from frontline duties to tackle mental health issues.
Ms Hair said that bobbies on the beat do not have adequate training to deal with the complex problems some people have, and called for the NHS and police force to work more closely together to ensure the best possible care is provided in each case.
The Angus figures showed an increase in 9.3% in mental health incidents from 2017/18—2018/19.
The average figures for Angus were 6.2 per week in 2017/18, 6.8 per week in 2018/19 and 8.45 per week in 2019/20. In less than half the year, the number of recorded incidents in Angus already stands at 52.7% of the previous year’s total.
Commenting on the figures, Ms Hair said: “These figures back up the anecdotal evidence I heard while spending time with officers on patrol in my constituency, as well as that of constituents.
“Police are already overstretched, and they are spending too much of their time dealing with a rising number of mental health incidents.
“Officers will obviously do their absolute best, but they are not trained to deal with these types of complex problems.
“In some parts of England, police take a mental health specialist out with them on patrol to respond immediately to these types of incidents.
“I have already written to the SNP justice secretary and health secretary to raise this issue and call for a more joined-up approach from the NHS and Police Scotland.
“There continues to be many hours of police time taken up travelling to hospital or care in Dundee. These are vulnerable people who need full and professional support, which in many cases may be provided in the home by healthcare professionals.
“Ultimately this comes down to resources. The UK Government is investing heavily in our police and NHS, which means millions more in funding is coming to Holyrood. It is up to Scottish Ministers to act.”