Police often are relying on themselves when dealing with people experiencing a mental health crisis because they don’t always know what resources are available to help suicidal individuals, according to a recent Toronto Star article. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Wilfrid Laurier University’s online BA in Policing program includes crisis intervention education.
Mental health crisis response training can help police officers handle suicide calls. Police receive a high volume of calls that are related to mental health, and a StatsCan study found that out of the five million Canadians who had interactions with police in 2012, more than 18% of them had a substance abuse issue or mental disorder.
Jennifer Lavoie, an Associate Professor in Laurier’s Department of Criminology and faculty for the online BA in Policing, indicates that with crisis intervention training police can control suicidal behaviours using community resource options rather than arresting suicidal individuals.
The online BA in Policing focuses on the strategic development of personal resilience in dealing with traumatic incidents, leadership, education and communication skills in policing. The curriculum includes a course on Mental Health, Addiction and Crime that focuses on substance abuse and mental health disorders, offering risk assessment techniques and management processes.This program covers in-depth study of the stigma and victimization associated with mental health disorders.
Currently there is no standard either nationally or provincially that requires an officer to have training in crisis intervention. Professor Lavoie indicates that while around 40 hours is the industry standard, many police officers only receive between 1-20 hours of training in this needed area.
Lavoie is part of a team designing crisis intervention scenario-based training for police officers, and together with Brock University was awarded national funding for a four-year research project. Lavoie and some of her graduate students have accompanied police on calls for several years in order to observe and research the interactions and help improve the way people in mental health crises are responded to.