Police Departments and Mental Health Training
Police officers interact with people who have mental health issues every single day. And the way in which the police choose to handle those interactions can have major consequences for every person involved. Here at Xenia Counseling we would like to discuss the importance of mental health training in the police department.
Let's start off by recognizing some mental health conditions common in the police field.
The Critical Role of Mental Health Training in Police Departments
Police encounter challenging situations every day. Often they find themselves face-to-face with individuals in extreme distress, experiencing trauma, or posing a danger to themselves and others. In such high-stress environments officers must know how to deal with these individuals in a manner that deescalates the situation and helps everyone involved. Officers frequently encounter individuals grappling with a wide range of mental health challenges, including but not limited to:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Officers themselves are at risk of developing PTSD due to their exposure to traumatic incidents. Estimates from the Department of Justice suggest the number of officers with symptoms of PTSD is 15%, but those estimates could be low. Additionally, they often interact with civilians who have experienced trauma, requiring a delicate approach to ensure everyone's safety and well-being.
Depression and Anxiety Disorders: The demanding nature of police work, coupled with the constant exposure to potentially life-threatening situations, can take a toll on an officer's mental health. They encounter citizens who may suffer from depression and anxiety, further highlighting the importance of recognizing and addressing these conditions.
Substance Use Disorders: Part of policing responsibilities include investigating and often encountering individuals struggling with substance abuse issues. Understanding the connection between mental health and substance use is pivotal in providing effective assistance and maintaining community safety.
Suicidal Ideation: Officers are often called to help individuals in crisis who may exhibit signs of suicidal ideation. Recognizing these signs and knowing how to respond appropriately is essential to prevent tragic outcomes.
Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders: When people are unsure of how to help those with severe mental illnesses they will usually call the police, which can lead to unpredictable behavior. Training is imperative to ensure that officers respond with empathy and appropriate measures when faced with such situations.
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: Policing also involves interactions with individuals who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. Officers must possess the knowledge and skills to engage with these individuals in a compassionate and respectful manner.
Understanding these mental health conditions is a fundamental step toward enhancing the effectiveness and safety of police departments.
In part two of our discussion, we will explore how mental health training equips officers with the tools and knowledge necessary to handle these situations with care, empathy, and professionalism, ultimately fostering a safer and more compassionate environment for both law enforcement and the communities they serve.
In ‘The Importance of Mental Health Training in Law Enforcement’ By Nicholas Wilcox, M.S., they stress the importance of having a thorough training plan for law enforcement officers. They mention that this plan should be detailed and specific, with the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) model being a good example. Additionally, they highlight the need for this program to work closely with local mental health experts and build strong, lasting relationships with them. Some of our therapists have worked hand in hand with law enforcement and know how valuable it is to have mental health advocates be available when law enforcement needs to focus on keeping the community safe and can use the extra support.
This training program shouldn't be limited to just police officers out in the field. It should also include dispatchers, who provide important information to officers in the field, as well as supervisors who oversee officers and make sure they follow the program's guidelines. Administrative staff who handle the logistical side of law enforcement agencies are also important in making sure the training program runs smoothly.
Wilcox emphasizes the need for a comprehensive training program for law enforcement that includes collaboration with mental health professionals and involves everyone from dispatchers to supervisors and administrative staff. This approach is crucial for improving safety and professionalism in law enforcement.
In conclusion, mental health training is vital to the overall care of the community, especially relating to law enforcement. In order to keep our community truly safe we need to have an understanding of different aspects of mental health in order to use the proper care and possible life saving tactics for those involved. For more information go to www.xeniacounseling.org to schedule an appointment with us today!