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•	A family in Uttar Pradesh pictured with one of the Special Police Officer certificates (image taken prior to COVID-19. Copyright Rahul Kumar).

Professor Steve Jones, from the University of Chester’s Medical School, has been working with police staff in Uttar Pradesh (UP) in North India since 2015, on mental health focussed projects, including a training manual for police officers.

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Professor Steve Jones, second right, with former colleague, Paul Keenan, far left, pictured during a previous research visit to India in 2016 (image copyright Professor Steve Jones).
Professor Steve Jones, second right, with former colleague, Paul Keenan, far left, pictured during a previous research visit to India in 2016 (image copyright Professor Steve Jones).

This collaborative work with other UK colleagues and the UP police staff is now producing real mental health care benefits on the ground in North India. Police Superintendent Rahul Kumar, from the UP Police, (and co-author of the training manual) and colleagues have trained fellow police officers to reach into remote rural areas, to work with families of people with intellectual disabilities.

The mothers of those families are now to be given Special Police Officer status, which means that although they won’t have any specific powers, the status should help curb social stigma, and offer police protection. Police Superintendent Kumar came up with the idea, after recognising that people with such disabilities were a target for criminal behaviour – with case studies showing instances including abduction, forced peddling, organ harvesting and sexual exploitation. (The full story can be found in a Times of India article here.)

Professor Steve Jones said: “It has been a pleasure to contribute to this training initiative. As a clinician and academic, I have always worked and supported a multidisciplinary team approach to health care. We ensure that all our projects are locally driven, sustainable and must have direct patient benefit on the ground. Our projects aim to equip trained and volunteer/ Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) workers with the skills to assess and work with people with mental health needs, and support family members too.

“The media can play a key role in raising public awareness and support of people experiencing mental health. Stigma and lack of services only compound the day to day issues encountered, and any projects that tackle this are very welcome.

“I have noticed a clear change of language in the media in India over my time visiting the country, and such issues are now more sensitively communicated. Through this awareness raising and training of police staff, we hope that this will soon lead to Governmental policy changes, similar to the changes in the UK over 20 years ago.

“However both countries must continue to develop services toward those with intellectual disabilities. Irrespective of whatever cultures we work with, we learn valuable life lessons from these global issues. I have worked collaboratively with inspiring people from the UK and India, and my belief is that cultures can learn from each other for mutual benefit.”

Professor Jones recently received a letter from Police Superintendent Kumar, thanking him for his support and guidance, and letting him know that, to date, 5,000 copies of the guidebook have been distributed to trainees and teachers in the region.

The Chester Medical School has recently started working with clinical staff at Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s Centre for Autism, Neuro-Developmental Disorders and Intellectual Disability (CANDDID) on projects that have direct benefit in the local area and nationally: The collaborative aim of the partnership is to undertake real world research with direct health care benefits for people with autism, neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual disabilities in the UK.

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