Police facing mental health issues 1

Police facing mental health issues 1

Two fronts. One is the increasing incidents of police actions against mentally ill people that’s been in the news lately. The police are being asked to cope with a very special part of our population with little training as to how best de-escalate these situations. In a Toronto Star article Jly 13’14, on this issue, the increased numbers of incidents was accounted for “because institutional facilities have closed their doors.” If I recall correctly it was in Mike’s Harris’s time when more and more homeless people began to appear on our streets, and fewer and fewer beds were available for the mentally ill in the province. So social workers are now being trained in some urban jurisdictions to ride along with the police to try to cover some of that territory, and police are slowly being trained to deal with some of the vast array of mental disablities that they could encounter.

This beginning response is a game of catch-up addressing an area that has huge implications. It’s a well-known fact that the poor and the homeless account for a large proportion of the emergency visits and a large proportion of the prison population, and are disproportionally a drain on the health care system and the legal system. Far cheaper it would be to deal with the mental issues these people have up front – rather than deal with them way down the line when they’ve committed a crime or land in the hospital.
The solution to this huge problem is all but simple and I’m always amazed at the differing answers that are proposed. There seems to be no consensus on this issue. However as a former teacher I would humbly suggest that our model for building good human beings is all wrong and consequently our model for fixing them is faulty as well.

In the Maxwell Gladwell book The Outliers, he describes the huge difference between children nurtured in a good supportive intelligent middle class home and those raised in poverty, with poorly educated parents and a weak support system. He shows how despite having superior intellect, even genius level capabilities, unless wisely nurtured, the child has little chance of fulfilling his/her full potential -not to mention take care of mental issues that might arise on the way. A study done at a University in Montreal a few years ago found they could successfully deal with potentially violent children by removing them from the program and having both the child and parents “retrained” to less dysfunctional patterns of behaviour. Mental illness, like violence can indeed be dealt with, especially if caught early.

We’ve long been working with a dysfunctional model of what it means to be healthy – notice it only when it’s extreme, feed it a pill, placate it or institutionalize it and it’s solved – or at least it’s out of sight, out of mind. This model will not a healthy human being make. We can do better than that.

Visit the website FrightFree.com

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