Tuesday, July 7, 2015

1 in 4 shot by the police are mentally ill.

Alternet has a piece out on how One Quarter of People Police Have Killed This Year Were Mentally Ill. The article cites a Washington Post article which focuses on the lack of training police have when it comes to dealing with the mentally ill.

...The dead account for a quarter of the 462 people shot to death by police in the first six months of 2015...
 
The vast majority were armed, but in most cases, the police officers who shot them were not responding to reports of a crime. More often, the police officers were called by relatives, neighbors or other bystanders worried that a mentally fragile person was behaving erratically, reports show. More than 50 people were explicitly suicidal. 
More than half the killings involved police agencies that have not provided their officers with state-of-the-art training to deal with the mentally ill. And in many cases, officers responded with tactics that quickly made a volatile situation even more dangerous.

I see this daily on the streets of down-town Montreal. It seems more and more of the homeless population is mentally ill (often visible schizophrenic, or visibly struggling) and it isn't uncommon to see police engaging them, or often corralling them away from the tourist-focused areas of the city. 

We have a similar story locally, when news reports described a man being shot after he attacked police with a hammer. Little else was said. Now, we know a little more about the man, Alain Magloire, a biologist with two-children who was homeless and mentally ill at the time of the attack. His brother, Pierre testified at the inquest (from The Gazette):
Pierre Magloire began his testimony asking for better police training in times of crisis management involving people with mental health problems. 
“We can’t treat these people the same way we treat someone who just committed a crime,” he said. 
In addition to training, he questioned the weapons being carried by officers on patrol, calling them unnecessary for crisis intervention. He was especially critical of the use of a patrol car by one officer to run into his brother. “I do not believe that using a car as a weapon of opportunity is adequate for an individual that suffers from mental illness.” 
Magloire’s brother, who works as a teacher, said he knows from experience that a crisis can be managed without force. 
“A person in a crisis needs to be given time to wind down,” he told the coroner’s inquiry. “We need to give them the space to have the time to manage their crisis.” 
Months before he died, Pierre Magloire said his brother sought help, but was let down by a system that works in “silos.”
Boy does this echo with me. I've mentioned countless times how difficult it is to access services, and I'm someone who is relatively functional when in the grip of my depression and anxiety. One bad day, and one trigger happy cop - that's all it takes.

Magloire mentions groups working in "silos" - which I had to google. Apparently this is a business terms that refers to departments that refuse to work together or share information. In the mental health care system, I don't know that the intent is to be terribly organized, but that's definitely the working reality of the health care system.

It seems so little information is centralized. So much of my time and energy has been recounting my mental health history to practitioner after practitioner.

Again, let me take a moment to highlight the innate irony and flaw of asking someone who is mentally ill to be the sole keeper of their story. 

There needs to be a centralized information system for this information. For the medication. For the breaks. For the crisis points. There needs to be follow-up and follow-through.

The Washington Post also has a breakdown of the people shot by police, mainly men, and though the breakdown seems quite mixed, it would be interesting to further break this down my race and class. No doubt these men didn't have access to proper care.

Alain Magloire sought care, and was "let down by a system that works in silos." No doubt every one of the 466 people referenced in the Post article also have a story about how they were let down by the system. Hopefully more and more people will share their stories, so the way in which we're approached by police can be drastically changed.

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