The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

Police training addresses suicide, domestic violence, road rage, DWI

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Here is an article from the Poughkeepsie Journal that illustrates the frustration felt by ill-equiped police when faced with a mentally ill person.  In the past, that person was either ignored or thrown in jail.  Current trends are to train the police in more “politically correct” treatment for the mentally ill.

While I wholeheartedly agree that police could stand to learn more about dealing with the mentally ill since they do it regularly, I doubt that the training is going to change anything in a major way.  The problem is that police have a totally different mindset than that of a social worker or psychiatric nurse.  They have no patience for hand-holding people who are endangering the lives and livelihood of others.  Their initial police training is in containment and arresting.

I applaud the Poughkeepsie police for their forward thinking and willingness to extend themselves.  I think there is some aspect of self-defense involved also, because, as this article states the police are frequently the first line in dealing with a mentally ill person; and with budget cut-backs, there doesn’t look to be any relief for quite some time.


Written by
Shantal Parris Riley
Poughkeepsie Journal

They’re often the first to arrive on the scene in a mental health crisis.

Police and other law enforcement serve as public protectors — but, at a moment’s notice, when confronted with a situation involving a mentally disturbed person, they become social workers.

“Mental health issues are prevalent on the job,” Town of Poughkeepsie Police Chief Thomas Mauro said. “They occur with regular frequency.”

Regional police are preparing for an upcoming training series, titled “Responding to Situations Involving Emotionally Disturbed People: An In-Service Curriculum Orientation,” to be held in Orange County in February.

The curriculum, offered through the state Division of Criminal Justice Services and Office of Mental Health, will provide police with training on suicide assessment and intervention and a host of topics covering mental illness. The training course is designed to supplement the mandated training provided to police recruits.

From incidents of road rage and driving while intoxicated, to emotionally charged incidents of domestic abuse, police are faced with issues of mental health daily, Mauro said.

“Sometimes, there’s a conflict between our role as law-enforcement officers and the secondary social work aspect of law enforcement,” he said. “You’re trying to draw a balance between your responsibilities to maintain public safety and trying to do what is in the best interest of the person you’re dealing with.

“The difficulty can often be with communication.”

Mauro, who has decades of training in suicide intervention, crisis negotiation and stress management, said “talk tactics” often involve putting time into a conversation to calm or slow a person down.

Town of Poughkeepsie police had training in 2010 on “de-escalation techniques” to include listening with empathy and focusing on behavior, not the person.

This and other training was put to critical use in August 2010 when a 22-year-old man threatened to jump from a ledge of the sixth floor parking lot at Saint Francis Hospital after escaping from family members who drove him there for a mental health evaluation…[read more]

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October 19, 2011 - Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , , , ,


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