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Do Police Officers Need More Training on Mental Health Encounters?

Jaclyn Hughes

Most people wouldn’t deny that those who work in the law enforcement field are in greater demand now more than ever. With elementary schools suffering terrible gun attacks, to protestors getting out of hand, they without question need to be in place in 2016 more than in past years. With millions of Americans reporting that they live with some form of mental illness, or that they currently take medication for some type of mental condition, it is becoming increasingly clear that police officers are going to be called to a higher number of cases that may require in depth training on mental health.

After the killing that swept the newsroom involving Deborah Danner in New York just weeks ago, the subject of ensuring mental health situations are handled effectively has become a massive discussion across the country. USA Today recently reported that a survey was performed by an organization called the “Ruderman Family Foundation”, where it was summarized that nearly half of Americans killed by police officers live with some form of mental illness. These killings have been justified by the legal process, but it certainly remains something worth carefully reviewing in great detail going forward. Are law enforcement officers well versed on how to interact with those that suffer from mental illness, and if they aren’t, why not?

As much as many have come forward in protest of these police killings, one would have to assume that the officers involved in the encounters cannot possibly be held entirely responsible for these actions if they were never adequately trained in the first place, right? How frightening it must be for both sides of the situation to be a police office in route to a call that involves a stressful situation where one party is in need of a medical specialist, and the officers do not have the resources to help them in the best manner. Or to be the individual living with a form of mental illness that is in need of help, and cannot request such ending up in a police matter that perhaps required a doctor versus law enforcement? Without question, this is a hot topic, and a topic not going away any time soon.

It’s been advised that some departments just don’t have the training to learn the best practices needed to handle these situations. There was a program in play in the United Kingdom that placed nursing staff alongside police officers when they were called to the scene involving a mental health party. Perhaps something to this nature would help greatly in the states to gain the best possible outcome for all involved?

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