POLICE officers in Dorset are to receive training at Bournemouth University to help them deal with people suffering mental health problems.

Dorset HealthCare and the Dorset and Police Crime Commissioner have announced the partnership with the university as part of the county's Mental Health Street Triage Project.

The initiative aims to equip officers with improved knowledge and skills to assess members of the public displaying signs of mental health distress, without enforcing powers under section 136 of the Mental Health Act and taking them into custody.

Dr Andrew Mayers, a psychologist and mental health campaigner at Bournemouth University, said: "I am honoured to be working alongside Dorset HealthCare on this crucial project.

"Unnecessarily detaining vulnerable people experiencing mental health crises will only worsen outcomes and reinforce distrust.

"The street triage offers a more positive alternative, and it is encouraging to see the growing success of the project.

"To support that we are also delivering mental health awareness training. The aim is to equip police officers and support staff with the skills needed to deal with complex situations.

"It is also important that police officers look after their own mental health. We can help them do that."

The Dorset street triage scheme has been running since June 2014, and has already dramatically reduced the number of people sectioned across the county. In July, no members of the public were so detained.

The partnership announcement follows news from the Department of Health that, since the national street triage project was implemented last year, the number of police cells used for those experiencing a mental health crisis has more than halved.

The project has also led to 10,000 people across the UK being helped by a mental health nurse alongside a police officer.

Stan Sadler, service manager for mental health at Dorset HealthCare, said: "We have so far seen really encouraging results since the start of the project.

"The partnership with the University marks another step on our mission to ensure that each and every individual who experiences a mental health crisis receives the most appropriate form of care as soon as possible."

Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, added: "This partnership with Bournemouth University will equip officers with even greater knowledge and skills to help make the right decisions when policing our towns and neighbourhoods."