This is not a pleasant post for me to write. Too many times I have heard of people who were in a mental health crisis and the police were called in. I’ve always told non-mental illness people don’t ever call the police. They don’t have a clue what to do. All to often, in a crisis situation like this family members or friends call the police because they think they can help. And all too often, their loved one is taken away in handcuffs and treated like a common criminal only to be dropped off at an ill equipped ER to receive degrading care. Then comes the issue of the severe lack of beds in the state (any state), so they are released…untreated and still in crisis.
These horrible situations happen because our police force is ill prepared to handle a mental health crisis. In my small town, out local NAMI chapter does CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) training with our police…at least it use to. I have to look into that. They actually had police officiers and those of us with a mental illness sit down together and talk as part of the training. They could ask us questions and we could tell them what would and wouldn’t work so well. So, I thought if my small town was doing this surely a larger metropolitan area was doing this. So I asked one of those “big city” officers if they did CIT. He had never heard of it before! That answered that question. I had my husband with me as back up just in case something “uncensored” came out of my mouth that might get me in trouble. You know how those filters are just gone with Bipolar Disorder. Anyway, I asked him what he would do in a mental health crisis situation…you guessed it! Cuff the person and take them to the ER! I said, “Are you serious?! Do you really think that’s the appropriate thing to do?” That’s when my husband thanked the officer for his time and whisked me away. 🙂 I just couldn’t believe it. Our police forces have no means of de-escalating a mental health crisis. No one is giving them the tools.
So, here’s where my advocacy comes in. I know my Congressman is working on something based on my meetings with him, but I’m not exactly sure what. We talked about a lot. I think it’s time we ask for mandatory CIT training of our police force. I think we need to start at the state level. I will write up a letter that can easily be personalized. Will any of you join me? Will any of you take this letter to your local state representatives? We need a mighty voice. I have a loud one, but I am only one person…I need more people to make this work. So, will you help me?
Sometimes with the way Bipolar Disorder goes, I feel as though my mind is trapped behind bars…a caged mind if you will. It’s stuck in either the euphoria and madness of mania or the deepest depths of despair chained to that cage with no way out. Like all cages, there is a door…but with Bipolar Disorder who controls whether that door opens or remains locked shut? Can it ever be fully open to allow the brain to fly free from the burdens of this disorder?
Also, there’s safety in that cage. In that cage we know what to expect. We know the meds won’t always work. We know our moods will be unpredictable. But we also know that we can achieve greatness. This greatness may come at a cost sometimes, but it is attainable. For who knows better than we how potential new laws will effect the mental health care system. Who knows better than we how important it is that our First Responders receive mandatory CIT training (to de-escalate a mental health crisis). Who better than we knows how important it is to educate our youth about mental health issues and suicide prevention techniques (educators as well). We are in a very unique position to effect great change in this country…we just need to be heard. One by one as we talk to our representatives on local and national levels, we will be heard. There are millions of us. They can’t ignore millions of potential voters.
We can’t allow First Responders to treat us like common criminals when we are in a crisis. With proper training, this won’t happen. We have the right to be treated with dignity both in and out of the hospital (ER). Training will go a long way to help this. If we tell our stories to these people and help them understand, things will start to change. Right now they know no different, let’s show them a better way. So write to your representatives and ask for mandatory CIT training of the police. We have to start somewhere and that’s a good place to start.
So many people debate what is a serious mental illness and what is not. I say, “What’s the difference?” Every single one of us who has a mental illness has that potential to become a danger to ourselves and/or others. So why then only try to legislate for the “seriously mentally ill”? It just doesn’t make sense. What we need is reform across the board. What we need is more places willing to accept pdocs for residency. There aren’t that many places across the nation that offer this and this is why we are in such a major mental health crisis.
Let’s just say that this horrible (my opinion, I know) Mental Health Families Act (HR 3717) passes through Congress and is signed into law. (Oh heaven forbid!) Then what? We still don’t have the pdocs that can handle the case load we have now let alone the one that will be forced upon them through AOTs. Legislators are going about it all the wrong way. This is why I keep fighting to bring those of us with a mental illness to the table with legislators. We are the ones that know what will and won’t work. I don’t give a rats batooty that Rep. Murphy worked in the field. Unless he’s been forced to use it himself as a client, he has no clue. Sure he has the book education, but that only takes him so far. It’s the real life experience with this broken down system that counts…combine those two forces and the legislative genius that could be achieved is immeasurable.
So, listen up Congress! Take notice of us! We’re not going anywhere and what we have to say is IMPORTANT! For those of you reading this, I hope you will join me as I continue my talks with Congress. We have to stand united.
Okay, soap box moment over. Just don’t ever give up!