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New scheme supports people who have gone missing

A scheme aimed at preventing suicides by providing help to adults who have gone missing has supported more than 800 people who were either at or approaching crisis point.

The Dorset Police Adult Early Intervention Team was set up in May 2020 with initial funding from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill wanted to establish the service to provide additional help to people who have gone missing from home, many of whom are experiencing serious mental health issues and some of whom sadly go on to kill themselves.

Between November 2020 and January 2021, the team had 40 cases referred to them by the county’s neighbourhood policing teams and other agencies, and during that time they were monitoring 49 active cases.

The team has also looked into 2,000 incidents of people who have gone missing and intervened in more than 800 cases in which people were either at risk of attempting suicide or taking their own lives.

A small team was recruited to contact adults who have who have been located or have returned after having been reported as missing.

Members of the team carry out in depth interviews in order to gather an understanding of the reason the person went missing, report any harm they experienced while they were missing, and help them address the issues behind the episode to reduce the chances of it happening again.

The more complicated cases are kept under constant review and are referred to other organisations who can help, including mental health services.

Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Sadly, many people who go on to kill themselves had previously experienced episodes in which they had gone missing.

“I was very keen to set up a system in which we can talk people who have gone missing to try and find out the reasons behind it and put them in touch with the support they need to prevent the situation escalating.

“Quite rightly, it’s been a legal requirement for many years that these return home interviews take place with children and young people who go missing, and I wanted to replicate this important work for adults who go missing.

“I’m very pleased that this has now been set up within Dorset Police and that the team has started providing genuine help that many people need. While the legacy of COVID-19 is uncertain, I believe it will create a huge increase in the number of people experiencing mental health issues, and so the work of this team will be much needed for many years to come.”

Inspector Neil Wood of Dorset Police said: “The excellent work of the Adult Early Intervention Team shows our commitment to protecting the most vulnerable within Dorset. By working closely with our partners, we are able to take a whole system approach in order to keep people safe and deliver the best possible service.”

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