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Police Scotland Mental Health Response

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Police Scotland

Type of work

Service Design

Systems Design

Student Work


Mariana Acosta Morales

Jia Qian

Shanyi Xiong

Ximan Chen

A co-response driven care network providing appropriate care for individuals in mental health distress, in Scotland.

Titled “Effective Policing”, this project led us to explore the role of a modern, functioning, fit-for-purpose Scottish Police Service. As Design Innovators and Service designers, we were to approach this context through the lens of “care”.


In Scotland, the Police are often the first contact when a person is in crisis. However, people with mental health problems need expert support. Through this project, we identified the need for an emergency psychiatric care unit, and a broader supportive care network.

Watch our complete project process video below:

Primary research plan & data synthesis

To conduct focussed enquiry, we clustered information several times based on emerging themes and strategic objectives. To gain perspective on particular focus areas, we followed a triangulated approach to collect primary data- speaking with the Police, members of the public, and subject matter experts.

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Data synthesis through clustering

Engagement tools to interact

with the public

We designed engagement tools to ease into the topic of safety, well-being, and the Police. Using characters with varying personalities from popular cop shows in the UK, was an exciting way to start an in-depth conversation.

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Focussing on Mental Health &

re-imagining  first response to a crisis

Our research revealed a few distinct opportunities for intervention. We chose to focus on Mental Health as a group, after assessing the scope of the project and the positive impact it could create for both the public and the Police.

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Assessing opportunities

Analysing the Mental Health context


In a situation of acute distress, people require urgent primary care, as opposed to clinical or criminal emergency treatment.


During a crisis, people prefer to rely on the Police’s 24x7 availability and immediacy of response, in spite of an undesirable experience.

Hence we framed our design challenge as "Re-imagining the response to a mental health crisis situation so individuals in distress receive the appropriate care from the right people.”

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Identifying barriers and redesigning the service experience

Mapping relationships in the Ecosystem

We mapped the wide context of mental health and the relationships between care providers and the Police. It helped us see the variety of options available for mental health care, and the lack of a simple emergency psychiatric care unit to relieve the burden on the Police, and provide expert support.

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2 part Service Proposal- A mobile care unit van & an integrated care network

Modelled after two pilot programs in Denver and Oregon, the van is a co-response team comprising of a Community Psychiatric Nurse, or a CPN, and a Paramedic. They are both dressed in regular civilian clothes.

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2 part Service Proposal

Service Journey Map of Care

Our journey of care starts before the van arrives and extends beyond the moment the crisis is treated. A key aspect of this journey is being sensitive to the needs of diverse communities in Scotland, and being fair and inclusive during access, treatment and follow up care.

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In building on this proposal, Service Blueprints, Impact Assessment models, benefits and other research frameworks were documented in detail. The video shared above best explains the experience of care through an illustrated storyboard.

As a Live project, we received insights and feedback from those involved in policing and mental health support in Scotland. Over the 2 months, we focussed heavily on gathering information from multiple sources, framing insights, and  identifying opportunities that would lead to meaningful outcomes for people and the Police.

Service Journey Map of Care

People and organisations involved in the care ecosystem

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