Mental health has had a much higher profile in recent years, with everyone from members of the Royal Family to sports stars raising awareness. Although the stigma of mental health has been slowly disappearing, it’s probably fair to say that people are still not as happy talking about mental health issues as they are about physical ailments. For many people recovering from mental health problems, the advice is often to get back to work or volunteering as a way of getting back into society and making a contribution. But what happens about disclosure checks? Can police information about mental health issues appear on a certificate?


Police Record Only

It’s important to understand what disclosure checks are all about before getting worried unnecessarily. Disclosure and barring checks – and their equivalents in Scotland and Northern Ireland – are about weeding out people who are unsuitable for certain positions. This could be due to crimes of a sexual or violent nature, or because of dishonesty. The certificate is produced by searching the police national computer for information about convictions or cautions. Being mentally ill and getting help in itself is not a criminal matter. Police don’t keep health-related records, and it’s not common for employers to ask for access to your medical records either. You are under no obligation to disclose any incidences of mental ill-health, or any other health issues when applying for a job.


Information on Police Files

Unfortunately, some people become so mentally unwell that they either pose a danger to themselves, or act in a way which causes the Police to be called. If you are so unwell that the police are called, then there may well be a record of this on the police computer. Similarly, many people commit offences when unwell which may be very out of character for them. In emergency situations, police may arrest someone and take them to the police station to keep them safe, often known as “sectioning”.

Although this information may be recorded on the police databases, the police take great care when deciding what type of mental health related information to disclose on certificates. The police look at a range of factors to decide what should be disclosed and what should be left off your certificate. They think about issues such as:

  • The age of the information
  • Whether your behaviour put anyone else at risk, or just yourself
  • How your health is being managed currently
  • Is there a pattern, or just a one-off incident
  • What is the risk of disclosing the information, or on the other hand, not disclosing?


Seek Advice

If you’re worried about what might be disclosed on your DBS certificate, try not to worry. In most cases, police disregard information about convictions or incidents which were clearly mental health related, especially if you can show an improvement in conduct and health. If you’re still concerned, the mental health charity Rethink campaigns on these issues, and offers a telephone helpline to answer any questions you might have about the DBS process.