Handling Mental Health with Dignity by Local Law Enforcement while Protecting the Community

mental health

Mental Health and the Law

Often times a person with mental health issues gets tangled up with law enforcement. Sometimes the results are not so good.  However, there are emergency responders who are trained to handle similar situations.

The problem that comes about is, sometimes the law breaker is not taking medicine for his/her illness. Or the mentally ill person is also strung out on drugs.

Here are some statistics I found about crimes committed by those who are mentally ill.  With the test subjects who were mentally ill and had committed an illegal act:

  • Bipolar disorder has a 62 percent rate of illegal activity that was directly or mostly related to symptoms.
  • schizophrenia had 23 percent.
  • Depression was 15 percent.  
  • The study did not examine how substance abuse interacted with mental illness to influence criminal behavior.
  • More than 1.2 million people with mental illness are incarcerated in jails or prisons in the United States according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  • People with mental illnesses also are on probation or parole two to four times the rate of the general population.

Crisis Intervention

The Crisis Intervention training for community responders is 40 hours of classroom instruction. Included in the classroom instruction, they act out role playing scenarios. The participants even learn what it is like to live with a mental illness.

On the Job Training

A responder to the community could face a mentally ill person breaking the law. The responder will assess the immediate environment to make sure it is safe. Next he/she will try to communicate with them. This is in an attempt to discover the issue at hand.

mental health

Handling Mental Health

If the situation escalates, the suspect may be tased. If the responders or the community is in danger, then the suspect may be shot in order to enable them.

Issues with Law Enforcement and the Mentally Ill

Not all emergency responders are trained in most if not all countries.  There are many reasons why having mental illness training is not the standard.  Organizations have funding issues, staff are not trained to teach on mental health, training material is outdated and caught in a jam of red tape with the local union.

I really take issue as someone who has had bipolar 1 for more than 20 years. Now I do not hold myself out there to be an expert on mental health. But I speak from my own experiences. No, I have not been in trouble with the law.  But, I would want special precautions in place for anybody.

I also wonder what type of training do these instructors undergo? How can a police office without his/her own experience with mental illness train police officers on how to deal with situations involving same.  

Is there time in the 40 hours for a mentally ill guest speaker? I think it would be a terrific idea to have a stable mentally ill person come and speak.  

Why 40 hours? Is that enough?

Your Next Step

What are you going to do if your community’s police officers are not trained properly? Would you be willing to step up and help put together a program? Or, your community may have training in place, are you will to extend a hand in helping as the program moves forward?


I would love to hear your comments on this subject. Please leave me a comment below or email me at lifeconquering@gmail.org.

Going Further