The Call That Changed It All: How Law Enforcement Train For Mental Health Crisis

Officer Training For Crisis Intervention

Day in and day out -- officers never really know what they will encounter. It could be a domestic situation, a person barricaded inside a home, or someone threatening violence. Police say people in these situations could be going through a mental health crisis. And while these cases can be extreme, Triad officers say they deal with some form of mental health issue every day.

Officers go through extensive training to better handle situations, involving people with mental health problems.

Related: What Does Mental Health Mean To You?

Over the past decade, there has been a big emphasis on training people when it comes to mental health. Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page recalls one deadly case that prompted change.

“[The subject] produced a firearm. I was actually there that day, and I thought that he was going to kill himself in our presence, but then he tried to run down the officers with a vehicle,” Page explained, “He got into a vehicle, and tried to go mobile, and subsequently was shot. So, I realized after that, that we have to do something. What can we do better to reduce the chances of again? Of having to take a life? We need to have a technique to reduce that situation for the person in crisis.”

Now, Sheriff’s deputies go through training to know the signs, what to do and how to effectively communicate. Around 90 percent of Rockingham County's deputies have taken a 40 hour Crisis Intervention class.

In Guilford County, the Sheriff’s Office has hosted 18 of these classes now since 2010. The latest one wrapped up last week.

“You need to verbally deescalate rather than go hands-on with the subject who is not compliant if they're in a mental health crisis rather than using force to take that person into custody,” said Sgt. Matthew Suits, “They give us the training on how to communicate with them and to recognize there's something going on with this person even if it's minor.”

The training is a partnership between big organizations like NAMI - or National Alliance For Mental Illness - to local hospitals and health providers. The goal here - to make sure in tense situations, or even day to day - people get the help they need.

Read: Treating Depression With Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

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