Posted on 9 January 2018
Police officers frequently come into contact with individuals with mental health problems. The College of Policing estimate that approximately 15-20 per cent of police time is spent on such incidents.
The bespoke training will be delivered by mental health professionals from TEWV as part of a plan to train all front-line staff - from police officers to call handlers - from 9 January onwards.
It is the result of a collaboration known as the “Connect - Mental Health” partnership involving academic research, consultation with service users, and a randomised control trial.
The purpose of the training is to increase awareness and identification of mental health vulnerabilities, improve the recording of incidences involving people with mental ill-health, enhance skills in communicating with people in mental distress, provide a clearer understanding of referral pathways into mental health services, and aid multi-agency working.
As part of a package of work with North Yorkshire Police, researchers at the University of York reviewed the research literature and found no high-quality evidence evaluating mental health training relevant to the police context. The researchers in the York Trials Unit went on to run a randomised controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of a bespoke mental health training package for frontline police officers.
The unique one day training package was developed by collaborators in the department of Social Policy and Social Work and aimed at improving officers’ understanding of and ability to identify people with mental health needs. The training was delivered by mental health professionals from the Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV) to 230 frontline officers based at police stations across North Yorkshire.
The study also revealed that the training of frontline officers did not reduce the number of incidents reported to the police control room up to six months after its delivery; however training may have a positive effect on how the police record incidents involving individuals with mental health problems.
Professor David Torgerson, Director of the York Trials Unit, said: "We have been delighted to work with North Yorkshire Police on this initiative.
“This project shows that it is possible to undertake randomised controlled trials in a complex operational environment.
“We are pleased the trial has informed the roll out of mental health training across the Force."
Deputy Chief Constable Lisa Winward, said: “People are at the heart of what we do and the more we understand people’s challenges and vulnerabilities, the better our service will be.
“Mental health is a frequent factor in many incidents that the police are called to, whether a person is a victim of crime, a witness, a perpetrator, or someone who is calling us as a cry for help, and it is vital that we can recognise the signs of mental ill-health and are able to obtain the best possible outcome for that person.
“The police are not mental health experts, nor should we have such an expectation of them, but our officers and staff do need to understand when a person needs proper mental health care.
“The training will provide this awareness and I am very grateful to the project team for their work which has culminated in the training package we are now able to roll out to all of our front-line staff.”
Approximately 1,500 staff will be trained over the year.
Researchers in the York Trials Unit conducted a randomised controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of a bespoke mental health training package for frontline police officers.