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Monday 24th October 2016

Mental health training needed for police

14th July 2010

Writing in the Guardian, SE Smith argues that US police need proper training in mental health.


In the US, people suffering from mental health problems are too often subjected to brutality by poorly trained police officers.

In one case in New York in 2009, eight NYPD officers beat a man with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, though they claimed he was violent and needed to be subdued.

In America, often the call for help is first met by police officers who are often not adequately trained to respond.

This is a direct consequence of the erosion of community-based mental health services where often there is little support for people with mental illnesses.

When people call for help, they get police officers, not mental health professionals.

Often the officers get conflicting information that they are not able to respond to in the way that best meets the needs of an individual.

To counter those horrific experiences, a radical restructuring of the way responses to mental health crises are handled is required.

There is a need for more community-based services for people who need mental health care, including counselling, outpatient clinics, education programmes for caregivers and better mental health interventions for at-risk individuals.

Fortunately, several police departments have independently recognised this need and begun work on the development of task forces to address mental health issues.

Teaching officers how to handle encounters with mentally ill individuals should include familiarisation with common mental health issues, training in non-lethal restraint as well as verbal negotiations with people in crisis.

Throwing untrained personnel, such as police officers, at people with mental illness has serious consequences.


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Vijaya Prasad

Thursday 5th August 2010 @ 15:35

At last this vital issue has been recognised. Mental health is normally ignored in most cases, whereas due to drug abuse it has become quite commom, and the police should definitely be trained to handle such cases

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