The police and others in occupations where they come into close contact with people experiencing/with mental ill health, often have to manage difficult and complex situations. Training is needed to equip them to recognise and assist when someone has a mental health issue or learning/intellectual disability. We undertook a systematic review of the effectiveness of training programmes aimed at increasing knowledge, changing behaviour and/or attitudes of the trainees with regard to mental ill health, mental vulnerability, and learning disabilities.
Databases searched from 1995 onwards included: ASSIA, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Clinical Trials (CENTRAL), Criminal Justice Abstracts, Embase, ERIC, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Social Science Citation Index. Courses, training, or learning packages aimed at helping police officers and others who interact with the public in a similar way to deal with people with mental health problems were included. Primary outcomes were change in practice and change in outcomes for the groups of people the trainees come into contact with. Systematic reviews, randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and non- randomised controlled trials (non-RCTs) were included and quality assessed. In addition non-comparative evaluations of training for police in England were included.
From 8578 search results, 19 studies met the inclusion criteria: one systematic review, 12 RCTs, three prospective non-RCTs, and three non-comparative studies.
The training interventions identified included broad mental health awareness training and packages addressing a variety of specific mental health issues or conditions. Trainees included police officers, teachers and other public sector workers.
Some short term positive changes in behaviour were identified for trainees, but for the people the trainees came into contact with there was little or no evidence of benefit.
A variety of training programmes exist for non-mental health professionals who come into contact with people who have mental health issues. There may be some short term change in behaviour for the trainees, but longer term follow up is needed. Research evaluating training for UK police officers is needed in which a number of methodological issues need to be addressed.