Crime / Justice - LiveI train cops about mental illness and help design police departments' response policies as a Director of CE and Mental Health Policy. AMA!
Mar 18th 2016 by thinkscotty • 5 Questions • 427 Points
My short bio: Hey guys, my name is Scotty and I work for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in the Chicagoland area. I have a B.A. in Philosophy and an M.A. in Intercultural Studies & Community Development and have worked previously in Immigrant Legal Policy and child welfare reform in Latin America. I worked as a Chicago City Paramedic for several years after college, where I saw how ridiculously bad our society's response to chronic mental illness can be. Now as part of my job I work with law enforcement officers, learning about their encounters with mental illness on the job and training them how to interact well with people having mental health crises. My goal is to help them get people into treatment whenever possible and avoid violent or demeaning confrontations.
How much does the average police officer know about dealing with the unarmed mentally disturbed, compared to in the past?
Also do you tell officers that telling somebody "calm down" never works?
I uploaded this slide from one of my my powerpoints specifically regarding the phrase "calm down" just for you! In my opinion it's the most useless phrase anyone could ever use. Everything it communicates is wrong. 1) It tells the person that they aren't worth listening to, 2) It stops the individual from venting emotions and thereby de-escalating their symptoms, and 3) It tells the person that their concerns aren't valid. In roll play scenarios I run with the police, I specifically make them replace that phrase.
The average police officer knows a lot more than they used to. In fact, younger officers can often be highly knowledgable about mental illness because it's basically a requirement that officers have college degrees these days and a large number of them study psychology. Still, many times they quickly forget what they've learned and become cynical. Where the "older" cops have the advantage is in knowing that being the loudest person in the room doesn't always mean you're the most in control. So while they may have less "head knowledge" about mental illness they are usually calmer and less "ancy" than their younger colleagues.