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University helps police with mental health training

November 21, 2013

header_UOITlogoThe University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) in Oshawa, Ontario has unveiled new simulation videos to  help front-line police officers recognize possible indicators of mental illness.

The idea for the program was born after Insp. Bruce Townley of the Durham Regional Police Services contacted the school hoping to discuss ways to educate police about what signs to watch for when officers encountered a person who may be experiencing a mental illness.

“We agreed it would be a great idea to explore developing such a program for police officers,” Dr. Wendy Stanyon, Associate Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, UOIT, said in a statement. “And we decided it would be beneficial to call upon the knowledge of other community experts to help move the project forward.”

The simulation videos, created in collaboration with Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, were highlighted in Navigating the Journey to Wellness: The Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Plan for Ontarians, issued by Ontario’s Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions. The simulation videos were also recognized by Accreditation Canada in 2010 as a leading practice.

Research into the effectiveness of the simulations concluded videos are as effective as face-to-face learning and that front-line officers found them engaging and realistic.

“The key to the effectiveness of this kind of police training is that it is an interactive tool that was developed by both front-line officers and mental health experts,” stated Inspector Townley, Durham Regional Police Service.

The simulation videos are currently mandatory training for several police services, including the Durham Regional Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police. Other police services in the country and abroad have expressed interest in using the simulation videos and develop more in the future.

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