Bemidji Law Enforcement Trains On How To Respond To Mental Illness
Today, Bemidji Law enforcement participated in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety, a national training program put on by the National Council of Behavioral Health.
“We’ve brought in training on mental health to help our officers more understand the issues with mental health, some of the signs and more importantly, how we can connect with people having mental health issues,” Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin said.
Chief Mastin says they’re seeing an increase in officers responding to calls involving some level of mental health issues. The training will impact officers by teaching them skills and giving them the tools they need on how to handle people who are going through a mental health crisis.
“It’s imperative that our officers learn how to identify someone who’s in crisis and understand how to communicate, how to position themselves and how to help get that person the help that they need,” Mastin said.
34 police officers, along with some Beltrami County deputies, are taking part in the mental health first aid training course. Police Chief Mastin hopes the training will be beneficial in helping law enforcement officers in their everyday job.
“The expectation is that law enforcement is going to arrive and somehow diagnose or understand, ‘okay, this person is having a schizophrenic episode,’ and that’s not necessarily the case, we need to understand the spectrum of how to respond to someone in crisis, not necessarily diagnose people,” Mastin said.
The five-step action plan is to help someone who is possibly developing a mental health difficulty or experiencing a crisis.
“Our officers go to these calls and we’re referring back to the tools in our tool belt that we learned in police academy, but where are the tools for mental health?” said Valerie Saviano, the Founder and President of Mental Health USA. “They’re not there, so this is an extra tool that we’re giving officers, how do you approach somebody, how do you make that assessment to see if they’re at risk of suicide or harm, and how do you talk to that person and connect them to the appropriate level of care?”
The training course presents law enforcement with PowerPoint lectures and interactive scenario-based training to practice the skills they’ve learned throughout the two-day course.
Mental Health USA is in the process of developing a five-step action plan for teens called Teen Mental Health First Aid, and it’s designed for teens to help one another in need or in crisis. It will be introduced in 2020.
Mental Health USA is currently looking for volunteers and sponsors. If you’re interested, contact Valerie Saviano at (815) 670-4173 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.