In the past, there have been many cases where law enforcement failed to respond carefully and compassionately to mental health incidents. Some ended fatally when police didn’t recognize the symptoms of mental health episodes. As mental health issues within communities have increased over the past 40 years, inpatient services have decreased. Therefore, police departments have had to meet the growing needs of individuals suffering mental health emergencies. Police officers not only are the first responders to these crises, but often are the only source of immediate service for urgent mental health activities. It’s important that we address the significance of mental health training in law enforcement and increase collaboration between police and mental health professionals.
Since 2015, nearly a quarter of all people killed by police officers in America had a known mental illness. This is because these individuals are more likely to encounter law enforcement than medical assistance in times of crisis. A primary concern for officers is how to effectively de-escalate mental health incidents when appropriate procedures are unknown to them. So far, within their programs, law enforcement agencies have failed to include training involving recognizing mental health episodes and de-escalating the situation without force or violence. One tragic case involving Daniel Prude proves just how delicately the situation must be handled. Daniel, a 41-year old man, suffered a drug-induced mental breakdown. He was naked and roaming the streets of New York City when police confronted him. Officers handcuffed him and put a hood over his head, apparently to stop him from spitting at them. Three officers pinned him to the ground, and pressed his face into the pavement for two minutes while one officer pushed heavily on Prude's head. Prude stopped breathing and was taken off life support at a local hospital a week later. While the police may argue that there were no dangerous weapons involved, we can all agree that current restraining methods must be reformed.
While these incidents are tragic, they have forced us to address this issue by considering ways to improve. Recognizing that there is a problem is a vital step in supporting both individuals and their families, as well as law enforcement in their response. It’s vital that all groups work collectively to spread awareness of the different types of mental illnesses, provide training to improve police response through collaboration, and, if possible, implement a team dedicated solely to crisis intervention for mental health episodes. This team would consist of mental health professionals who are unarmed and trained in de-escalation tactics. No weapons or hoods would be used - just the power of calm talk. For law enforcement, the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) model involves 40 hours of training led by mental health professionals. Its curriculum includes the signs and symptoms of mental illness, medications, de-escalation skills, and treatment options available in the community.
With these changes, we can save innocent people’s lives and get them the help they need. Police officers should be able to recognize when someone is in need of intervention and act accordingly.
Westervelt, E. (2020). Mental health and police violence: How crisis intervention teams are failing. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2020/09/18/913229469/mental-health-and-police-violence-how-crisis-intervention-teams-are-failing
Widgery, A. (2020). Increasing collaboration between police and mental health professionals. National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved from https://www.ncsl.org/blog/2019/12/17/increasing-collaboration-between-police-and-mental-health-professionals.aspx
The relationship between spirituality and psychology has historically been a negative one. In the scope of religion, science and faith were always thought to contradict each other. Now, however, there is growing research on the positive association between these two factors. Some studies even reveal that religious people are healthier both physically and mentally. Since both spirituality and religion can bring a sense of comfort, people can find strength in their beliefs to cope with stressful situations. It seems that having a belief system can go a long way in improving one’s mental health and wellbeing.
Before mental disorders were diagnosed, it was common for someone with depression to be told to take their concerns to their place of worship or to have more faith in order to feel better. This view is harmful because it associates mental disorders as a problem with faith rather than a treatable condition. It’s more that religion can be helpful for those whose spiritual beliefs and practices serve as an important coping tool for recovery. Mental illness is not a choice, and recovery looks different for every person.
There are a wide range of spiritual practices that can improve your mental health, such as:
Practicing mindfulness, or being present, can help decrease stress and anxiety, calming a person’s mind. This can be achieved through meditation and remembering to live in the moment. Many spiritual practices are derived from various religions across the world. However, it is common for many mental health treatments and therapies to have a spiritual aspect that is not specific to any religion.
Because spirituality and religion incorporate healthy practices that are good for the body and mind, there are many benefits to our mental health. First, it helps improve our self-esteem and confidence by giving us feelings of empowerment and helping us accept others regardless of their spiritual beliefs. We can build a sense of community with others and support them through spiritual practices. Having a strong support system is always good for mental health. Furthermore, spiritual teachings emphasize the need for doing the right thing. They teach forgiveness, gratitude, and compassion, which help people cope with challenging situations.
Research shows that individuals have better mental health if they belong to a particular community or have religious beliefs. Spirituality can help people in many ways. First and foremost, spirituality or religion can help people find meaning in their lives which is instrumental in improving one’s mental health. The fact that hospitals employ spiritual advisors to counsel patients demonstrates how essential spirituality is to people’s health and wellbeing.
Frye, D. (2020). Spirituality and mental health. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/return-stillness/202001/spirituality-and-mental-health
This month is Alcohol Awareness Month. Started in 1987 by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, it’s a public health program that increases awareness about the dangers of alcoholism. It was started with the intention of targeting college-aged students who might be drinking too much as part of their newfound freedom. It has since become a national movement to draw more attention to the causes and effects of alcoholism as well as how to help families and communities deal with drinking problems.
The goal of this tradition is to spread awareness about the stigma surrounding alcoholism and substance abuse in general. For many, denial is a common trait for those who are uncomfortable acknowledging the reality of the situation. Alcohol Awareness Month gives public health bodies, community centers, and treatment facilities the chance to increase their efforts to reach people who may not fully recognize the dangers of unhealthy alcohol consumption. It also helps ensure that families and communities have the resources, information, and options available to control the crisis of alcoholism.
Signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse can manifest differently in others. Some of the most common physical, psychological, and behavioral signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse are:
The official 11 criteria, or symptoms, for alcoholism in the DSM-5 are listed as:
Because alcoholism is a prevalent condition in the U.S. among most age ranges, there are many research organizations that are committed to helping and preventing alcohol and substance abuse. Some research organizations include the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Additionally, there are numerous alcohol support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Al-Anon and Alateen, SMART Recovery, and Women for Sobriety. American Addiction Centers has many great resources listed on their site that can be referenced anytime.
American Addiction Centers. (2021). Alcoholism: List of symptoms and signs of alcohol abuse. Retrieved from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcoholism-treatment/symptoms-and-signs
Monico, N. (2020). Alcohol awareness month. American Addiction Centers. Retrieved from https://www.alcohol.org/awareness-month/