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Identifying opportunities to improve outcomes and care pathways of people in mental health distress attended by Police Scotland

School of Health and Social Care

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Assoc Prof N Dougall , Ms I Heyman , Dr Jennifer Murray No more applications being accepted Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Police are often first responders to people in mental health distress (MHD) yet feel ill-equipped to do so. People in distress frequently present out of hours with complex co-morbidities, such as alcohol misuse, self-harm or suicidal intent. Police effectively act as gatekeepers and conduits to mental health assessment and care, yet cite disconnects between police and health systems, slow support responses and collaborative risk planning. Police are sometimes left with no choice but to make criminal charges to enable a place of safety within police custody. This highly resource-intensive outcome criminalises and stigmatises people in MHD, negatively impacts on the interagency interface and misses opportunities to connect vulnerable people to appropriate care pathways. The Scottish Government Mental Health 10 year vision and Police Scotland’s 2016-2026 strategy clearly articulate an ambition of multi-agency upstream interventions for this group providing timely intervention and partnership working.

This studentship will influence police and mental health policy, facilitate more appropriate and efficient collaborative pathways, and reduce morbidity and mortality by:
1. Providing evidence on the disconnect between police and health systems using literature synthesis.
2. Use data pertaining to either health or police, and establishing outcomes for people in MHD who are attended to by police.
3. Identify opportunities for better information sharing, care planning and person-centred upstream collaborative police / health service interventions.

This project sits within an exciting programme of interdisciplinary research at the Scottish Centre for Law Enforcement and Public Health (SCLEPH), and is well connected nationally and internationally. SCLEPH has both police and health stakeholders, links with Scottish Institute of Policing Research (SIPR) and its academic base in the School of Health & Social Care. The supervisory team bring expertise in data science, mental health, forensic psychology, decision science, qualitative research and strong links to international and national law enforcement, public health research practice, knowledge exchange networks and police gatekeepers.

Academic qualifications
A first degree (at least a 2.1) ideally in health or social science related subject with a good fundamental knowledge of contemporary mental health issues, or rights and justice research or policy and practice. English language requirement IELTS score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components). Other,equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s policy are available online.

Essential attributes:
• Experience of fundamental research methods
• Competent in quantitative research methods, data management and analysis software
• Knowledge of contemporary issues related to people who ‘fall between the gaps’ in services
• Good written and oral communication skills
• Strong motivation, with evidence of independent research skills relevant to the project
• Good time management

Desirable attributes:
Good MRes/ MSc related to research methods or to the topic area
Experience of quantitative data analysis and interpretation, using R or Stata or equivalent
Work-related experience of mental health or policing or A&E departments, community justice etc.

Funding Notes

This is an unfunded position. We will consider part-time applicants. We will support applications for funding to charitable benefactors who may part support PhD fees. However, it is essential you underwrite your own fees.


Murray J, Heyman I, Dougall N, Wooff A, Aston L, Enang I. Co-creation of five
key research priorities across law enforcement and public health: A
methodological example and outcomes. J Psych and Mental Health Nursing.
Enang I, Murray J, Dougall N, Wooff A, Heyman I, Aston L. Defining and
assessing vulnerability within law enforcement and public health
organisations: a scoping review. Health & Justice 7:2(2019).
Scottish Government. Mental Health ( Care and Treatment ) ( Scotland ) Act
Police Scotland. Policing 2026 : Our 10 year strategy for policing in Scotland.
Lamb HR, Weinberger LE, DeCuir Jr. WJ, Jr. WJD, DeCuir WJ. The police and
mental health. Psychiatr Serv. 2002;53(10):1266–1271.
Hard Edges Scotland (Report). Bramley G, Fitzpatrick S, Wood J et al. 2019.
HMICRFS (Report) ‘Policing and mental health: Picking up the pieces’, 2018.

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