Mental health training for police officers shows benefits

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A new program for Canadian police officers is teaching law enforcement officials how to better deal with situations involving people with mental health problems.

The training, which is focused on empathy and communications skills, is aimed to help officers pacify inflammatory situations without using violence.

Results of the program have been published in the medical journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Recognizing mental health issues

Peter Silverstone, principal investigator for the study, says it can be difficult for law enforcement officials to understand when a person may be under the influence of drugs or simply coping with symptoms of a mental illness.

"It can be hard to differentiate between mania and a drug-induced high, or between psychosis and drug-induced problems," Silverstone said. "What we wanted to get across to officers is to not make assumptions right away."

Results

The one-day course, which uses role play to teach officers how to handle different scenarios, has helped officers increase their ability to recognize mental health disorders by 40 percent.

The cost of the course, $120, is predicted to be well offset by the money saved from officers handling mental health calls more efficiently.

The study notes that 37-48 percent of people fatally shot by police officers in Canada have mental health issues.

Source: Guardian UK