Mental Illness and The Police

So last week a woman who was apparently suffering from a mental illness was shot down in Washington DC after a high speed car chase. This story has been painful to watch and I have to admit, I stopped paying attention to it after reading several conflicting articles on what exactly happened. I don’t know and I obviously wasn’t there. I can only hope that the right call was made and that it was the ONLY call that could have been made. Some will argue that she was unarmed, but a car can most definitely be a weapon, just ask anybody who’s lost a loved one to a drunk driver.

It’s not for me to judge the police. I’m sure an inquiry will be made and hopefully the situation will be carefully looked at and the appropriate actions taken, whatever the outcome is determined to be. Some of these things may have already happened and if they have, you’re sitting here reading this thinking I should get off my ass and Google it before posting. That’s not gonna happen. This whole story is much too aggravating for me anymore, and I’ll tell you why.

We throw the word hero around much too liberally. Some people are so militant about how police officers are ‘heroes’ that they turn off any kind of objectivity in looking at the situation from the perspective that the police may have been too heavy handed.  Now, this was obviously a life or death situation and as I said, I wasn’t there. They totally could have made the right and appropriate call. As someone with a mental illness I would hate to wake up from a psychotic episode and discover that I’d plowed my car into a bunch of innocent people and perhaps hurt or killed them. I’ve never been a danger to anyone but myself but I would hope and pray that if that day ever came that there would be a police officer there with enough balls to pull the trigger and put me down, because the guilt of living with hurting another human being would kill me anyway. I would never live with it.

But here’s the thing. I’ve had a few dealings with police officers when I’ve tried to both obtain help for myself in moments of crisis, and with others who I’m close to. Some were kind and compassionate and saw a very sick person in need of help. Others were cynical and closed minded who did everything from mocking to eye rolling. I would not call those people ‘heroes’, I would call them douchebags! I only hope that the type of police officer handling the situation in Washington was the former and not the latter. But I’ll say it again. I wasn’t there.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that although I have all the respect in the world for the police, I really feel more needs to be done in terms of sensitivity training in their approach to people with mental health issues. It doesn’t make you a hero to simply put on your badge and go to work. It makes you a hero when you see someone who is sick and suffering and you treat them with as much compassion and understanding as the situation will allow. Trust me, not all of them do.

There have been times when the police have saved my bacon so I hope this is not coming off as a slight against them. I’ll always be grateful for the positive things they’ve done for my family, not the least of which is finding my little boy when he went missing a few years back. They were stellar and could not have done more to find him. Luckily we had him back within about 90 minutes (the looongest 90 minutes of my life!) thanks to the K9 Unit. Every time I see the K9 Unit I get a little teary because I know what a huge difference they make.

I saw a comment by the wife of a police officer on a message board this week saying that she was sick of her husband having to deal with the ‘crazies’.  I hope those are her words and not his because nobody likes to be treated like garbage due to a stupid label, but unfortunately this sometimes happens. My hope is that all police officers will see a mentally ill person as a person. Somebody’s loved one who means just as much to them as their own loved ones do, as opposed to ‘a crazy’, and treat them as such.


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