News

Mental health crisis training for Shepparton police officers

By Liz Mellino

Front-line police officers in Greater Shepparton are now better equipped to assist people experiencing a mental health crisis.

Their new knowledge comes after a training pilot was launched in Shepparton last year to provide officers with additional in-depth training dedicated to helping those with mental health issues.

The successful pilot, which was also launched in Ballarat, Mernda, Moorabbin and Melbourne East, will now commence statewide with mandatory two-day training for all front-line police officers.

“Input from police from these trial sites has been crucial in designing the training. We want to ensure this training is realistic and practical for our front-line police,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Lauren Callaway said.

“We are pleased with the feedback from participants from these areas, with many reporting the training had dramatically improved their interactions with people experiencing a mental health issue.”

The training comes after Victoria Police officers responded to an incident involving a person experiencing a mental health crisis every 12 minutes in the 2017-18 financial year.

While mental health education already formed a major focus in police training, the new program builds on the existing training provided to recruits.

“Responding to these complex incidents accounts for at least half of an officer’s shift,” Asst Comm Callaway said.

“With the rate of mental health incidents continuing to rise in our community, it is more important than ever to ensure our officers are better equipped with the skills required to respond.”

The Police Responding in Mental Health Events training will help prevent the escalation of incidents and associated harm to the individual, police and community while enhancing diversion to assessment and treatment.

The training, which involves demonstrations, simulations, practical exercises and problem-based learning, is delivered by a mental health clinician and police officer over two consecutive days.

These activities are also supported by a variety of short educational videos and interviews with people who have experienced mental health issues or have a family member who has.

The training also covers the effects of stigma, bias and stereotyping, the importance of family and friends, as well as the options available within the mental health system.

“The program has been designed to equip frontline police with specialised communication techniques to effectively address the needs of people experiencing mental health issues who come into contact with police,” Asst Comm Callaway said.

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