Each year, nearly one in five Americans suffer from mental illness. Crimes perpetrated by suffering individuals are frequently met with harsh treatment from law enforcement. Two mental health crisis experts, Dr. Randolph Dupont and Major Sam Cochran, discuss the need for a change in police intervention, encouraging awareness and necessary training for officers.
Stigma Around Mental Disorders
Unfortunately, many disorders go undiagnosed, preventing individuals from receiving necessary therapy and medication. While physical illness is met with sympathy and understanding, people consider mental disorders to be overdramatized and an illegitimate excuse to skip responsibilities.
Crimes and misconduct caused by people with mental illness are given immediate jail time. However, severe punishment does not help these individuals, increasing the severity of their symptoms and behavior. Sufferers need to be exposed to proper professionals, instead of automatically being placed punishment institutions.
Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Programs
Crisis Intervention Team Programs (CIT) began in 1988, after an officer shot a person with a mental illness.
The program offers 40 hours of classroom training for chosen offers and volunteers. The model also encourages police stations to hire mental health counselors to respond to emergency calls and reports. the Bureau of Justice Assistance estimates that the program is quickly expanding.
Right now there are more than 400 CIT programs operating within the United States. The officers selected for the program are trained as front-line responders, carefully evaluating the situation to determine if the person needs to be given treatment services rather than the judicial system.
The Paul Tsai China Center invited Dr. Randolph Dupont and Major Sam Cochran to host crisis intervention workshops in November 2016. For five days, the experts worked with 320 Beijing police recruits, educating officials about the proper response and rights of the mentally ill. They place emphasis in utilizing verbal de-escalation techniques, to minimize the risk of injury or violence.
China is not the only country to welcome the experts; countries such as Finland, Australia, and Hong Kong have also adopted CIT programs. Experts are confident that the collaboration between police officers, mental health professionals, and advocates will raise awareness about proper intervention and fight the stigma about mental health.