A safe place to be - the experiences of people in custody in mental distress


This report, supported by NHS Lothian, is the outcome of a small study into the experiences of individuals who have been held in custody as a place of safety due to mental illness or distress. These highlight issues that are already well understood by the Police and the NHS in Lothian around the inappropriateness of holding people in distress in custody who have not committed a crime but for whom there is no suitable safe alternative.

Hearing those issues related through difficult personal testimonies brings the human experience into the centre of the work by the partnership working group Safe Place to Be co-ordinated by NHS Lothian and attended by partners from the police, health, social work and voluntary sector, to develop a much better response to this problem in Lothian. The personal stories also identify some ideas for finding solutions to some of the problems, including new developments that the statutory agencies might consider in partnership with specialist voluntary sector organisations.

This report is not a piece of research from which we can make firm recommendations but is a review of the issues from a range of perspectives.  It covers the following sections:
  • Personal Stories – the testimonies for 10 individuals told in their own words in full through one to one interviews
  • Professional perspectives – the views of professionals from statutory and voluntary agencies who work with people daily and who understand the obstacles to improving outcomes for individuals
  • Focus group views – the views from 5 groups that attend the Taking Stock Workshop run by NHS Lothian in May 2014
  • Wider policy and evidence context – a brief review of some of the policy, media, research and other evidence that give this report a regional and national context
  • Themes, learning and ideas for development – a summary of the main themes and good practice from around the country