It’s Mental Health Awareness Month, an annual national movement designed to raise awareness about mental health, “fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for policies that support the millions of people in the U.S. affected by mental illness.”
According to The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year and more than 50% aren’t able to get treatment. When a person is in a mental health crisis, the call for help often goes to 911, resulting in a police response. In fact, as many as 1 in 10 police encounters involve someone with mental illness.
Police are expected to be both public safety officers and mental health specialists while trying to keep everyone involved safe during and after an incident. This is no easy task; the Washington Post’s database shows that about 1 in 4 fatal police encounters involve individuals diagnosed with a mental illness.
Responding to calls involving a person in crisis demands that officers are educated in the signs and symptoms of an individual experiencing a mental health crisis. Officers need training in crisis intervention, so that they can “quickly and correctly distinguish pre-event indicators from signs of distress or agitation not indicative of impending violence.”
MILO is committed to developing and providing training content that prioritizes effective mental health interaction and response. In collaboration with social workers, clinicians, and mental health experts, MILO has built training in simulation that can help officers hone their communication and de-escalation skills by providing them with scenarios that simulate encounters with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.
Officers can learn how to identify signs of mental illness and respond appropriately to different situations. For example, they can learn how to de-escalate a situation, and communicate effectively with individuals who may be experiencing a mental health crisis. By providing officers with a safe and controlled environment to practice critical skills, these simulators can help improve interactions between law enforcement and people experiencing mental illness, leading to better outcomes for everyone involved.
MILO training simulators can also help officers develop empathy and understanding for people experiencing mental illness. Officers can gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and struggles that people experiencing mental illness face, thereby helping them to approach interactions with more compassion and sensitivity.
It’s crucial — not only during Mental Health Awareness Month, but every day — that officers responding to a person in crisis have every tool at their disposal to keep everyone involved in the incident safe. Crisis Intervention Training can help officers recognize the signs of mental illness, react with effective and supportive measures, and save lives.