A police force is planning to expand specialist training in mental health issues to all front line staff after a trial project showed it improves officers' attitude and confidence dealing with situations.
In the trial in North Yorkshire, mental health professionals provided training for a randomly selected group of 230 officers aimed at improving their understanding of and ability to identify people with mental health needs.
Now the trial has been analysed in detail, comparing calls attended by officers who had received the training with calls attended by officers who had not, along with a survey.
The assessment, by the York Trials Unit at York University, found that of 9,157 calls looked at within the study, 10% were given being given a mental health tag.
The study, published in the journal PLoS One, revealed that the training of frontline officers did not reduce the number of incidents reported to the police up to six months after its delivery but it may have a positive effect on how the police record incidents involving individuals with mental health problems.
The trial was part of Connect, a collaborative project between the University of York and North Yorkshire Police on new approaches to dealing with mental health problems, administered by the College of Policing.
The training package was developed by York University's Department of Social Policy and Social Work and delivered by mental health professionals from the Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV).
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."
She said: "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."
Ms Winward said: "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 front-line staff - from officers on the beat to our force control room."
The College of Policing estimates that approximately 15-20% of police time is spent on mental health related incidents, the researchers said.
The survey results suggest that there was a positive change in police officers' knowledge, attitudes and confidence in responding to incidents involving individuals with mental health problems.
In particular, officers 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, working with partner agencies and reviewing actions taken in relation to incidents involving mental ill health.
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved.