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?