DOGS are being used to help police officers with their mental health as part of a new project.

The support dog project aims to encourage conversations about mental health among police officers and staff.

Each dog has a handler that is a mental health first aider who can listen to people's concerns and direct them to more support if needed.

The dogs are also used to defuse tense situations and calm people who may become nervous or agitated in custody.

Dogs, Rocky and Luther, are helping staff with their wellbeing at custody centres across Sussex.

The Argus: Sussex Police dog StanleySussex Police dog Stanley

While Chief Inspector Di Lewis’s dog Milo and PC Daren Buck’s dog Stanley are often seen at police stations in East Sussex.

There is also Beau, who is a PTSD Assistance Dog in training with his handler Glen, and they will often be seen around the headquarters in Lewes.

The wellbeing and trauma support dogs project recognises the value of dogs in helping officers and staff with wellbeing, by creating an environment where people feel comfortable to talk about their wellbeing and mental health.

The Argus:  Chief Inspector Di Lewis’s dog Milo Chief Inspector Di Lewis’s dog Milo

Sergeant Garry Botterill said: “This project is a fantastic way to help encourage officers to open up, engage and speak about their mental health and wellbeing.

"Dogs have a friendly, calming influence and people are noticeably more relaxed and comfortable in their presence.

The Argus:  Beau who is a PTSD Assistance Dog Beau who is a PTSD Assistance Dog

“By introducing trained support dogs and their handlers to frontline police officers and staff, it helps create an environment for conversations about their mental health and to highlight the relevant services which can provide help and support to those who need it.

“It’s incredibly important that people feel they can talk about their mental health, particularly in a job that presents people with challenging and traumatic situations.

"The dogs offer some light relief from the often difficult job we do, and anything that makes people feel positive and gets them talking should be encouraged.”