Leeds & West Yorkshire

Leeds woman reveals 'trauma' of mental health detention

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Media captionThere's been a 17% rise in the number of times police in England have detained someone under the Mental Health Act

A mental health patient has told how she was rugby tackled by police officers while running along a motorway after escaping from hospital.

Megan Alikhanizadeh said the mental health system was failing people, with the police often forced to intervene.

Her story comes as figures show a 17% increase in the number of times police in England have detained someone under the Mental Health Act since 2016-17.

Mental health charity Mind said this was "deeply worrying".

Government figures showed in the year 2018-19 police detained people under the Mental Health Act 23,883 times, compared to 20,422 times in the year 2016-17, based on data from 32 English police forces.

There has also been an increase in the number of people transported in a police vehicle after being detained by officers.

Image caption Miss Alikhanizadeh said being detained by police made her feel like an "outcast from society"

Miss Alikhanizadeh, 25, said: "I've been with mental health services five or six years now and things have just got worse and worse.

"The fact people are getting sectioned by police now is because things are being left to get to such an extreme point where people are just going out and they are trying to kill themselves.

"The system is really failing a lot of people who are desperate and have been pushed and pushed and pushed to the edge through no choice of their own.

"They've been asking for help but the help is just not there."

Miss Alikhanizadeh, from Leeds, has been diagnosed with major depression, severe anxiety and borderline personality disorder and has a history of self-harm and suicide attempts.

She has been detained by the police a number of times, including after escaping from hospital.

Image caption Lorraine Alikhanizadeh has had to stand guard outside the hospital to keep her daughter from running away

"I remember being chased down the motorway by the police on foot, running for my life and shouting 'I've done nothing wrong'," said Miss Alikhanizadeh.

"I was rugby tackled by two massive policemen and shoved to the floor handcuffed behind my back.

"On some occasions I've had my arms restrained to my body, legs restrained together. I've had five or six policemen or women bundling me into the back of a police van.

"I really appreciate they're doing their best they can to look after you but it's not pleasant at all, it's demeaning, its traumatic, it's painful."

On another occasion, she went to an NHS mental health hospital asking for help but they let her leave.

She ran across the motorway then on to a railway bridge and was going to jump when police detained her.

Image caption Miss Alikhanizadeh said she felt "really guilty to be taking up the police's time"

Her mum Lorraine said she had given up work to try and keep her daughter safe.

She said: "The police officers have been compassionate and spent more time with her than the actual staff as they haven't got time.

"There are some good people in the mental health care services, but they just haven't the resources to help."

Tom Mullen, clinical director at Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, apologised to Miss Alikhanizadeh for the distress that had been caused and said lessons would be learned.

Police detentions under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act, and transport to a place of safety

Data for 32 English police forces.
Source: Home Office

Under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act, the police can detain people without a warrant if they appear to have a mental disorder, are not at home and are a danger to themselves and others.

There has been an increase in mental health detentions carried out by police, based on figures covering all English police forces except Avon and Somerset, Cheshire, Devon and Cornwall, Dorset, Essex, Warwickshire and West Mercia, which have been excluded because of reporting inconsistencies between 2016-17 and 2017-18.

Mental health charity Mind said people being detained by the police felt like they were being treated as criminals at a time when they were seriously ill and needed help.

Paul Farmer, chief executive officer of Mind, said: "It is deeply worrying to see that more and more people are being sectioned under the Mental Health Act every year, reaching the point where they are so unwell the police have to be involved.

"This is stark evidence that something is wrong with our mental health system and backs up recent findings that access to mental health services is decreasing.

"Without adequately funded services, people will continue to reach crisis point."

John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said the situation was "shameful" and "whichever government comes into power in December we need them to step up and treat this like the crisis that it is".

The Department of Health and Home Office have been approached but said they were unable to comment because of the forthcoming general election.

If you or someone you know has been affected by a mental health issue, help and support is available at bbc.co.uk/actionline

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