Fears of a rise in mental health homicides amid strain on NHS

A campaigner has also suggested that mental health staff could be diverted to deal with coronavirus patients.

A man showing signs of depression
A man showing signs of depression

Fears have been voiced of a spike in the number of mental health-related killings amid the coronavirus crisis.

Julian Hendy, director of Leeds-based national charity hundredfamilies, supports those whose lives have been shattered by psychiatric homicides.

In an interview with the PA news agency, Mr Hendy expressed a concern of a rise in cases as anxiety and isolation take its toll on the vulnerable.

He said: “We know from official NHS statistics and from other statistics there are about 100 -120 homicides by people with mental illness in the UK every year – so that’s at least two a week as a baseline.

“I imagine that is going to increase because of the pressures of coronavirus.

“I have heard reports personally of people having difficulty accessing  services.

“I think mental health services are trying their best to see people by phone but for people in a crisis that’s often not enough.

“I’m worried about the risk increasing of self-harm but also harm to others.”

He suggested another problem could be mental health staff being diverted to deal with coronavirus patients.

Hundredfamilies director Julian Hendy
Hundredfamilies director Julian Hendy (Hundredfamilies/PA)

He added: “One of my fears as well is that often the crisis plan for people with serious mental illness is if they are having difficulty to go to A&E or to call the police and that seems to be inappropriate in the current climate.”

Over the last few weeks, Mr Hendy has been gathering information about new homicides in which suspects have been detained under the Mental Health Act.

“There have been a number of cases that are subject to legal proceedings that concern me greatly, recent ones.

“We won’t know the real extent of this until its been properly investigated by police and mental health services.

“I hope my fears do not come to fruition but I’ve been studying this for over 10 years now and I can reasonably well identify the cases that do have all the features of a mental health-related homicide and I see them today.”

On increased stress levels across society during the lockdown, he said: “It’s a serious worry. I hope people keep safe. I hope people are kind to each other.”

He advised anyone who has concerns for a loved one to speak up and alert healthcare professionals.

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Mr Hendy set up hundredfamilies.org following the death of his 75-year-old father Philip Hendy in 2007 at the hands of a psychotic man in Bristol who was well known to mental health services.

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