POLICE officers and staff are due to receive mental health training to improve the response to people with mental health problems.

All front-line staff with North Yorkshire Police are to be trained by mental health professionals from Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust.

It is the result of a collaboration known as the “Connect - Mental Health” partnership, which has also involved academic research with the University of York, consultation with service users, and a randomised control trial.

The project was launched in 2015 after the force successfully applied for a £1m grant from the College of Policing’s Police Knowledge Fund.

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 and provide a clearer understanding of referring people into mental health services.

Deputy Chief Constable Lisa Winward, said: “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.”

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: “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."