Researchers at the University of York have created a one-day training package aimed at improving officers’ understanding of and ability to identify people with mental health needs.

Calls attended by officers who had received training were compared with calls attended by those who had not had training and all officers were asked to complete an online survey.

Officers who had received training reported greater confidence in understanding mental health terminology; recognising the signs and symptoms of a range of mental health conditions; recording incidents involving mental health; responding to individuals experiencing mental ill health and working with partner agencies and reviewing actions taken in relation to incidents involving mental ill health.

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.

Deputy Chief Constable Lisa Winward of North Yorkshire Police, said: “The Connect project has been one of the most useful and valuable collaborations we have undertaken and I am grateful to the College of Policing for the funding, and to the University of York and TEWV for their invaluable work on the project. The research strands examined evidence from across the world. The most important people in the process – those who live with mental distress – were also consulted. This has helped us develop better practices to serve the needs of vulnerable people in a much better way.

Notably, the training delivered by mental health professionals from TEWV has been particularly helpful, both improving our understanding of our respective roles and capabilities, and strengthening the relationships between operational staff in the complex landscape of mental health crisis care. That, in turn, helps us provide a better service to people in distress.

Clearly there remains much work to be done to support people with mental health problems and avoid the need to contact the police in the first place. But if and when they do, I am confident that we are far better informed to ensure they get the most appropriate care at the time.

We are now planning to expand the training across the force to all our frontline staff - from officers on the beat to our Force Control Room.”