Mental health-related calls to police have increased significantly in the last five years, prompting a rethink on what incidents officers will be sent to in the future and a new inter-agency approach to responding.
The majority of mental health-related call outs do not involve criminal offending or enforcement issues so are actually outside the realm of police duty.
However they are usually the first port of call when people with mental health issues are in need of help.
In a bid to ensure police are using their resources properly and people with mental health issues get the help they actually need, a Mental Health Intervention Team has been set up and a new training regime was launched at Police College in August.
"Police end up responding to an awful lot of incidents of people with mental health issues, or people attempting of committing suicide. We have been recording volume and time consumption and the numbers are going up reasonable significantly," said Assistant Commissioner Dave Cliff, who is spearheading the team.
Between 2008 and 2012 police attending just over 99,000 mental health-related and 53,500 attempted or threatening suicide call outs.
In the 2013/14 year, 25,300 mental health-related calls were received by police.
"Those call outs have been going up at a rate of 5 per cent a year for mental health and 8 per cent per year for attempts or threatens suicide," Mr Cliff told the Herald.
"Why do we go? Essentially because we are the 24/7 emergency services responder, particularly in rural areas. There isn't another agency that can quickly respond."
Mr Cliff said each time police received a mental health-related call out two officers were dispatched.
He said on average, those two officers spent 2.5 hours responding to each attempted or threatened suicide and 2.1 hours at general mental health calls.
"Some can take a really long time, others can be resolved quickly but these are the averages," he said.
"It's really important we look after people, we can't leave someone there on their own - we have a duty of care. But we need to work out the impact it's having on police."
Mr Cliff said the whole thrust of the initiative was to ensure people got the help they needed immediately, but removing police from the process unless there were criminal or enforcement issues.
"The big issue when someone has a mental health issue is often police attend but it's not criminal and it's not an enforcement matter. It's a health issue."
Police will work alongside New Zealand's 20 district health boards to see how better to deal with the call outs.
Mr Cliff said ideally, there would be a shift from people calling police to them calling their GP or local mental health services.
However, any time a person was endangering their own or others safety - police would still attend.
"The difficulty is, there is no one number you can call for help. It differs from region to region. If people start with their own GP, that's the best place to be dealt with initially. "
Mr Cliff said the majority of jobs police attended could have been resolved with earlier intervention through health services.
"It will be a police-targeted programme, there will be some training options to see what best meets our needs. It's quite complex - we need our people to understand some of the signs of mental health issues and how to deal with them," he said.
* In the 2013/14 year, 25,300 mental health-related calls were received by police.
* Between 2008 and 2012 police have attended: 99,000 mental health-related calls, which have been rising by about 5 per cent each year 53,500 attempts or threatens suicide calls, which have been rising by about 8 per cent each year.
* Each time police are called to a mental health-related call out they spend between 2.1 and 2.5 hours resolving the matter.
IF YOU NEED HELP: If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.