Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Mental Health & Missing Person Support Officer - Dyfed-Powys Police

Carina Giannuzzi is the Mental Health & Missing Person Support Officer for Dyfed-Powys Police

We recently worked with Carina, and colleagues at West Wales Action for Mental Health, to produce some mental health information cards for use by police officers who come into contact with people experiencing mental distress.

We caught up with Carina recently to find out more about this project and other vital work she is doing in Powys and Ceredigion.

Tell us more about the work you do

I started in my current role as Dyfed-Powys Police’s Mental Health & Missing Person Support Officer on the 1st September 2014, and from the start have been involved in two major projects which are ongoing.

One is the Mental Health Triage Team run in conjunction with Hywel Dda University Health Board and although the project does not cover the county of Powys, it does cover Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire. The other is the Time to Change Wales anti-stigma campaign to tackle the discrimination surrounding mental health where I assisted Hywel Dda with a week of events they held last October.

I am a member of various mental health related groups, both internally and externally, and attend regular meetings relative to these.

I am also responsible for collating data and providing reports; receiving and identifying areas of work that require improvement to deliver change and am involved in multi-agency and partnership working.

What led you to this particular role in the police?

When I read the role profile for the post it sounded so interesting, worthwhile and rewarding that I thought “I want that job!” and thankfully I was successful in my application.

I also have a personal interest in mental health which I feel benefits that side of the role due to my understanding the impact that mental ill health can have on individuals, their family, friends, colleagues and employers.

What is the most challenging aspect of the job?

I would say juggling the two sides of the role as both aspects are equally important and demanding areas of work.

Are there particular issues which arise in rural areas for people experiencing mental distress?

Isolation is probably one of the biggest factors. Many people living in rural areas reside in remote locations and will not have neighbours close by that they can call upon. Their family and friends may not live close by and transport to visit them or just a trip to the shops can cause issues for some people, especially the elderly. Regular contact and communication is key for these people.

Why do you think the police are often the first point of contact for people experiencing mental distress?

When a person is in distress or at crisis point they want immediate assistance. They may not know who else to contact for help and by telephoning the police they know that they will get a response 24 hours a day. Many services are not available out of hours and this is another reason police are contacted.

What is the biggest issue for police officers trying to support people in the community who are mentally distressed?

Accessing the necessary services to provide them care and assistance they require in a timely manner. This is particularly prevalent ‘out of hours’.

Dyfed-Powys Police are working hard to provide better support for people in mental distress (see here for example). Tell us about the latest initiatives and any feedback you have had.

Our Chief Constable Mr Simon Prince has just signed an organisational pledge on behalf of Dyfed-Powys Police to show our commitment to the Time to Change Wales campaign to tackle the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health. I will be putting plans in place to take this campaign forward.

We are also looking at a safety card for people with mental health, learning disabilities/difficulties and dementia who may come in to contact with the police for any reason, for example, if the person is in crisis, lost or wishes to report a crime. The card will provide the officer with their name and details of their condition. It will also provide the name and details of a person police can contact to assist them dealing with the individual they have come in to contact with. This will be of benefit to both the individual and the officer. Once the design and content have been agreed, we hope to have this in place in the next few months.

Dyfed-Powys Police, in conjunction with Hywel Dda University Health Board, has set up a Mental Health Triage Team to respond to mental health related calls received by police. The scheme commenced at the beginning of January 2015 and initial feedback and statistics are very positive. Although the project has only been running for a few months, it has already been nominated for and NHS award.

How will the mental health information card we worked on together recently help?

The cards will provide an extra 24 hour point of contact for people who do not know where or how to obtain help, with the mental health team at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations (PAVO) and West Wales Action for Mental Health (WWAMH) providing another line of contact to advise people what is available in their communities. There are so many valuable services in the third sector that people do not know about and it will also help to raise their profiles and that of PAVO and WWAMH.

Which other organisations do you work closely with in Powys and Ceredigion to provide support to people?

Powys Teaching Health Board is the main organisation. I have recently met with HUTS (Help Us To Survive), Hafal and Noddfa at a Ceredigion Voluntary Group meeting and am hoping to work more closely with all three of them in the near future.

Where do you think the 3rd Sector fit into the picture? Would officers be confident about signposting or referring people to voluntary organisations?

The third sector can and does play a major part in mental health. There is wealth of fantastic work going on that people are not aware of that is assisting so many individuals and their families. Our Triage Team officers and Force Communication Centre staff are already signposting and referring people to voluntary organisations. It is a matter of making our staff aware of what is available throughout the Force area and what services these organisations offer. One of the ways this is being done is by adding these organisations to our internal Force Mental Health Information Page. Many have already been added and as I come across new ones, they are being added to the site.

Is there anything more the 3rd Sector could do to support the police in their work with people experiencing mental distress?

I believe the third sector is already supporting police in their work.

The only suggestion I have that may be useful in raising the profile of voluntary organisations within the police (if not already being done) would be for them to invite local Neighbourhood Policing Teams along to meetings or events they are holding.

What is the most valuable thing you have learnt since starting your role?

I am finding this very difficult to answer! I have learned a great deal, particularly in relation to the third sector and the fantastic work they do. I had no idea until I started in this role and I find it very inspiring.

When you are not working for Dyfed-Powys Police, how do you enjoy spending your time?

I have a wonderful family and friends who I love to spend time with.

I love to read books of all sorts and am keen on history, fashion and art. I also like to sew when I have the time and have just started exercising again to try and gain some level of fitness once more (said through gritted teeth)!

Many thanks to Carina for telling us more about her work. If you have any queries or comments we would love to hear from you.

1 comment:

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