SPECIALIST officers are being deployed in hospitals across the North-East to build bridges with young people struggling with mental health.

PC Darren English is not your ordinary bobby on the beat. For his daily patrol starts at Ferndene hospital, in Prudhoe,  - a specialist inpatient centre to assess and treat young people who have complex health, behavioural and emotional needs. Darren's role is to be the dedicated link between hospitals and police to help break down barriers with those living with complex mental health issues.

Many young people who have suffered mental health crisis will have often been in contact with police before and may have negative views, or even hostility, towards officers. However, Darren aims to be the supporting conduit between police and young people to reassure and protect them.

PC English said: "My aim is to go and introduce myself in a neutral setting and try and reassure young people with mental health or learning difficulties that I am here to listen and help. It's really important to me that I engage with them and try and establish a bit of a rapport in the hope we can limit those negative beliefs and build trust and confidence in police.

"If they have a better relationship with police when they leave, we may have a better chance of them having some positive thoughts towards us should they find themselves in a time of crisis again."

One of the issues Darren faces when visiting young people with mental health is that on some occasions, they can be violent towards staff. His presence in the hospitals is to also act as a preventative measure to deter young people from behaving aggressively towards employees.

Darren explained: "Some of these young people have extremely complex needs and this can affect their ability to control their behaviour. Of course, we are all very understanding of that and we all want to help these children have a better quality of life. However, it's important that they understand that assaulting staff is not acceptable and we do have to step in and take action if this happens."

Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) provides mental health, learning disability and neurological care for people across the north of England and welcome the work police are doing to support young people living with mental health issues.

Elaine Fletcher, group nurse director at CNTW, said: “We really value the contribution the police make to our Children and Young People’s Services. Some of the young people at Ferndene may have had dealings with the police before and it is thanks to the collaborative work between our organisations that we are able to ensure safety for both our patients and staff.”

If you need urgent help with your mental health or learning disability you can call these CNTW dedicated helplines 24/7.

North Tyneside & Northumberland

Adults - 0800 652 2861

Children & young people - 0800 652 2862

Newcastle & Gateshead

Adults - 0800 652 2863

Children & young people - 0800 652 2864

Sunderland & South Tyneside

Adults - 0800 652 2867

Children & young people - 0800 652 2868