Growing Number of Police Departments Support Mental Health Training for Officers

The police, in every city across the nation, are extensively trained in a number of disciplines, many of which focus on physical intervention. But a large number of incidents in which the police are called upon to intervene involve mental health issues, and often, officers are ill-equipped to understand and handle such issues. This discrepancy can be addressed through the implementation of Crisis Intervention Training, a program for police officers that helps them act as mediators and provides greater support for making decisions about where to direct those in need of help, and whether to administer charges. At present, a scant number of police departments retain a small percentage of officers familiar with the program, but this trend is rapidly changing. With many police departments extolling the virtues of CIT, including recent accolades from the Memphis, TN and Fargo, ND organizations, America may soon experience the benefits of a police force that can make a meaningful difference in times of mental distress.

In many situations, police officers may escort those exhibiting symptoms of mental illness to jails or emergency rooms, both of which can fail to address the issue at hand, becoming little other than extra expenses on the state, and exacerbating the difficulties of clients. The administration of charges has also traditionally caused problems for police officers, as petty misdemeanors are unilaterally applied with little to no room for contextual interpretation. But the use of the CIT program, as well as the greater understanding of mental health among department superiors, is capable of creating better situations not only for the police, but for those who find themselves in need of assistance, as well. Though not a replacement for a trained and licensed psychotherapist, CIT trained officers may be a valuable gateway between crisis and long-term care.

© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Marie

    Marie

    November 25th, 2009 at 10:00 AM

    Working in the police force is very mentally tiring and is a very thankless job.They deserve better and need all the facilities possibly available.

  • COURTNEY

    COURTNEY

    November 25th, 2009 at 10:23 AM

    It will be extremely handy in the cops are trained in handling emergencies such as mental issues. Any person knows that an injured person needs first aid and is to be transferred to a medical health facility but not many people know what to do if they are faced with a situation wherein a person is suffering from a mental health issue and needs help. Training cops would be a big boost and is sure to save many a lives as they are the ones to reach a crime-scene first in most of the cases.

  • Mary Ashley

    Mary Ashley

    November 25th, 2009 at 3:03 PM

    Police officers have to deal with way more stress than we give them credit for. They have to put up with situations that most of us could never deal with on a day to day basis. Looks like police departments are finally realizing the strains of this job and the emotional turmoil that it can cause for the officers.

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