If you were to listen to a police radio for one night, you would be shocked to hear all the things they say about the people they are called to respond to. Especially the ones who are mentally ill. I don’t know about you but I do not think this is right, at all. It’s bad enough that the police are not all trained to handle mental health situations and keep it from escalating, but the police just do not care about the mentally ill. I’m not saying that all police are bad, there are certainly good cops in this country, though the bad ones make it harder for them because they get blamed for everything their fellow officers do as well. What i am saying is that we need every single police officer to be trained in how to protect the disabled and keep situations from escalating. They can be trained through CIT (crisis intervention team). The lack of mental health crisis services across the U.S. has resulted in law enforcement officers serving as first responders to most crises. A Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program is an innovative, community-based approach to improve the outcomes of these encounters.
In over 2,700 communities nationwide, CIT programs create connections between law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency services and individuals with mental illness and their families. Through collaborative community partnerships and intensive training, CIT improves communication, identifies mental health resources for those in crisis and ensures officer and community safety. Not only can CIT programs bring community leaders together, they can also help keep people with mental illness out of jail and in treatment, on the road to recovery. That’s because diversion programs like CIT reduce arrests of people with mental illness while simultaneously increasing the likelihood that individuals will receive mental health services. CIT programs also:
- Give police officers more tools to do their job safely and effectively. Research shows that CIT is associated with improved officer attitude and knowledge about mental illness. In Memphis, for example, CIT resulted in an 80% reduction of officer injuries during mental health crisis calls.
- Keep law enforcement’s focus on crime. Some communities have found that CIT has reduced the time officers spend responding to a mental health call. This puts officers back into the community more quickly.
- Produce cost savings. It’s difficult to estimate exactly how much diversion programs can save communities. But incarceration is costly compared to community-based treatment. For example in Detroit an inmate with mental illness in jail costs $31,000 a year, while community-based mental health treatment costs only $10,000 a year.
NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) promotes the expansion of CIT programs nationwide by providing NAMI Affiliates and State Organizations, local law enforcement, mental health providers and other community leaders with information and support about CIT implementation. NAMI also works with local and national leaders to establish standards and promote innovation in CIT. Whether you are a law enforcement officer, mental health professional, elected official or person directly affected by mental illness, you can become an advocate for changing the way your community responds to mental health crisis. We need to bring CIT to all of our cities, for the community and most importantly the people afflicted by mental illness.
The bigger issue is that this country needs to erase stigma against mental health patients and the treatments they undergo to stay healthy. What’s more, therapy and medications are not enough sometimes, they need to feel like they are someone too, just like everyone else. This country helps kids, the elderly, the disabled and even animals – yet mental illness is a disability and they do not get the help they deserve, how inhuman. Stigma is extremely cruel and it has killed a lot of its victims. How can we all just sit here and watch this happen? how can we as a country let this go on? I have been living with mental illness my whole life, I personally feel like it is a hate crime or at the very least discrimination in the worst form. I am not only looked at as if i were crazy but also as if i am not safe or worth anyone’s time. There are, of course, kind souls in this world who have given me the time of day and listened to my story and let me feel like I have a tiny bit of power left. But even those people do not fully understand what it is like to live with this illness every minute of every day – I will never be understood, except by others afflicted with mental illnesses. The discrimination is also inside the court system, where they say that there is no discrimination against the disabled. The courts are the biggest violators of our rights as mental health is looked at as not a disability by the people put in place to help us. Instead of treating us fairly, the courts treat us like no matter what we do we will never be good enough – not good enough for society, not good enough as parents, not good enough as workers, in general not worth anyone’s time – opinions that mentally ill people will never get better gives courts another reason to just lock them up in a facility or jail and throw away the key, or worse, take away their power and even their rights. A mother who has a disability, such as cancer or being restricted to a wheelchair, would never lose custody of her children. When it comes to a mother with a mental health disability, the majority of the time, the children are taken away and a lot of times her rights are also taken away – sometimes for no reason other than having a mental illness. Some parents need help who are mentally ill, but that doesn’t automatically mean they are bad parents. Millions of mentally ill parents are good parents and would never do anything to hurt their children – yet during a divorce or perhaps an arrest or even just because someone is scared of people with mental illness, the parents who are afflicted with mental illness have to climb treacherous mountains and complete many unnecessary tasks in order to be able to see their children and hopefully get custody back, but the courts never make it easy for them or even provide the help that they are legally supposed to, making reunification for the family possible. This country says they want to help disabled persons, yet when it comes to mental health issues they do not keep the promise. We need laws and regulations set in place for these people and their families. If the courts could just put together a panel of professionals, such as a mental health professional, a lawyer with experience in mental health cases, an advocate for the mentally ill person, and maybe even someone who has experienced mental health disorders themselves and understands the situation. If we had a group like this set up to review the cases before a judge makes a ruling, then we would be giving these disabled individuals the chance and help they need; and just maybe we could begin to eradicate stigma and inhuman behavior towards the mentally ill.