Mental Health Training for North Yorkshire Police Begins

9 January 2018

From today, frontline officers and staff at North Yorkshire Police are to receive mental health training developed through a partnership between the police, University of York, and Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV).

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.

Approximately 1,500 staff will be trained over the year.

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.

As part of a wider collaboration 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.

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 and TEWV for their work which has culminated in the training package we are now able to roll out to all of our front-line staff

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.

Inspector Bill Scott, North Yorkshire Police’s lead for mental health, was part of the Connect team and played a key role in the development of the training. He said:

North Yorkshire Police, University of York and TEWV have worked in a fantastic partnership to help improve policing services for mentally vulnerable people.

Our role in society has always featured responding to the needs of people in distress. For complex reasons, this is an increasing proportion of our work.

This training is a great step towards improving how we can help people get the most relevant  intervention at the earliest opportunity, and to further develop the connections between police, health and social care agencies to keep people safe, well and away from inappropriate involvement with the Criminal Justice System.

Liz Herring, Head of Adult Mental Health Services in North Yorkshire at TEWV, added:

“We are really pleased to be able to help support North Yorkshire Police in developing their understanding of mental health illnesses.

“TEWV staff are generously providing 76 days of time for free over the next three months, with a further 76 days planned after this, to equip officers with basic knowledge and guidance to help them deal effectively with individuals they may come into contact with.

It’s important that people with mental health illnesses receive the appropriate treatment and support as soon as possible and in addition to our street triage and liaison and diversion services this is another important step forward in achieving this.

More information on the mental health training package and randomised control trial can be found on the Connect website