Main content

On the police frontline: The mental health crisis on our streets

For many suffering severe mental health problems, the police have become the first response. Newsnight follows one force to see what it means.

We don’t yet fully know what impact this pandemic has had on the country’s mental health, but Newsnight has been given an early insight from one frontline service that deals directly with people in crisis - the police. 

For years, long before coronavirus hit, it’s been apparent that frontline officers aren’t simply investigating crime, but often act as the first response for people suffering mental health problems. 

Now Newsnight has been given exclusive data by Bedfordshire Police that shows a dramatic increase in demand for their services through the pandemic when it comes to mental health related incidents. 

The programme was also given unprecedented access to the force’s mental health street triage team.

UK Editor Katie Razzall reports.

If you or someone you know has been affected by issues raised in this story, sources of support are available at the BBC Action Line,

For example, you can call Samaritans free on 116 123, email them at, or visit to find your nearest branch.

Release date:


8 minutes