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Screening for mental disorders in the police custody setting

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Iain McKinnonORCiD, John Moore



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Mental disorders are overrepresented in the Criminal Justice System, and this applies equally to police custody. These environments are complex and often pressured, and the acuity of the situation combined with underlying mental disorders, comorbid medical problems, and substance misuse can lead to behavioural disturbance and increased psychiatric risk. Police custody may also present an opportunity to identify and signpost people with mental disorders and vulnerabilities who are ordinarily hard to reach by standard health services. Consequently, there are a number of stages where screening for mental disorders and vulnerability is both necessary and desirable; these include: acute screening of acutely unwell detainees to prevent deterioration and reduce risk of suicide; screening of mental disorders to signpost to definitive treatment and obtain support for vulnerable/suggestible detainees; screening to identify detainees who may benefit from brief interventions for substance dependence disorders; and overarching screening at the point of release. Screening does not replace the need for careful specialised clinical assessment for many of the disorders encountered and there is a need to carry out validation studies for many of the currently used screening tools in police custody.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McKinnon I, Moore J, Lyall A, Forrester A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BJPsych Advances

Year: 2022

Pages: epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 24/05/2022

Acceptance date: 19/04/2022

Date deposited: 20/04/2022

ISSN (print): 2056-4678

ISSN (electronic): 2056-4686

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1192/bja.2022.25

ePrints DOI: 10.57711/gvbm-mf44


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