Best Practices for Policing Adults with Mental Disorders

Policing adults with mental illness Blog Header
Policing adults with mental illness Blog Header

Police officers face a variety of situations throughout their career, and many officers interact directly with adults who have been diagnosed with mental health disorders or show signs of mental health conditions. When obtaining a bachelor’s degree in policing, future officers learn the best ways to handle situations related to mental health disorders. The appropriate protocols and best practices allow officers to provide the services and assistance an individual needs to start working on the disorder.

Policing Adults with Mental Disorders: Initial Training

A challenge associated with a mental health disorder is the unpredictable behavior an individual may display. Police training provides officers with the foundation of appropriate protocols and strategies to give assistance, whether the individual shows signs of depression or a severe form of psychosis. 

During training for a bachelor’s degree in policing, officers learn different methods of handling adults with mental health disorders. Since dispatchers learn appropriate ways to inform police about the situation before officers reach the scene and interact with the individual, they also need an understanding of the appropriate tools to distract or assist the individual.

Police training for mental health disorders must focus on evaluating the situation and then using appropriate de-escalation techniques for the specific situation. In the case of traumatic responses from an individual, a police officer must understand the techniques used to calm an individual for trauma-induced reactions.

Identifying a Mental Health Disorder

Mental health disorders take many different forms, so police officers must learn to evaluate the behavior of an individual before they interact with the person. Generally, individuals with a mental health disorder show specific signs of their condition, such as talking in an erratic or odd way, nonverbal communication like covering their ears and other possible ways of communication.

The key challenge officers may face is determining the type of disorder and the possible complications associated with the condition. For example, an anxiety disorder may result in an individual running from the police. Psychosis, on the other hand, may result in violent or unpredictable behavior due to hallucinations or delusions.

Providing Recommendations

When an officer notices signs of a mental health disorder, he or she must provide appropriate recommendations for legal solutions based on the situation and the severity of the symptoms an individual displayed during an interaction with police. After bringing an individual into an appropriate station, an officer recommends treatment based on the individual's situation. For example, psychosis may result in violent behaviors and even violent crimes; however, the individual may also require constant care and medication to reduce the impact of the psychotic reactions.

A bachelor’s degree in policing provides the foundation to help officers recognize a mental health condition based on behavior, speech patterns and their interactions with the individual. By recommending alternatives like substance abuse treatment or treatment from a mental health professional, an officer ensures that the disorder is recognized by the system and measures are taken to identify the specific type of mental health condition.

Emergency Responses

Although training and learning how to make appropriate recommendations based on the behavior of an individual helps improve the situation, officers must also work with specialized professionals in certain emergency situations and identify the appropriate professionals needed for a crisis or psychiatric emergency. Generally, a specialized team has the training to handle specific complications with mental health disorders.

Because of the complexity of their mental state, policing adults with mental disorders differs significantly from policing other adults. Police officers need the training to recognize the signs of a mental health disorder so that they can take appropriate measures to de-escalate the situation. After getting an individual into the system, officers also need the tools to file appropriate paperwork to recommend alternatives based on the individual's situation and needs.