New report identifies ways to improve mental health training, education for police personnel

Published on August 30, 2014 at 7:46 AM · No Comments

A new report addresses education and training for police personnel interacting with people with mental illnesses

A new report released yesterday by the Mental Health Commission of Canada identifies ways to improve the mental health training and education that police personnel receive.

"People with mental illnesses is a prominent issue for Canada's police community, and today's report builds on the increasingly collaborative relationship between law enforcement and people with mental illnesses," says Queen's adjunct professor Dorothy Cotton, a forensic psychologist with an interest in the area of police psychology. "This is a gap-analysis tool that police academy and police services can use to improve their education and training."

Dorothy Cotton has released a new report on the police and people with mental illness.

TEMPO: Police Interactions - A report towards improving interactions between police and people living with mental health problems includes several key recommendations:

  • That police learning be designed and delivered by a combination of police personnel, adult educators, mental health professionals, mental health advocacy organizations and people living with mental illness.
  • More uniform inclusion of non-physical interventions (verbal communications, interpersonal skills, de-escalation, defusing and calming techniques) in use-of-force training.

  • The incorporation of anti-stigma education to challenge the attitudinal barriers that lead to discriminatory action.

  • That provincial governments establish policing standards that include provision for mandatory basic and periodic police training qualification/requalification for interactions with people with mental illness.

  • Provision of training on the role of police, mental health professionals, family and community supports in encounters with persons with mental illness.

  • That training provides a better understanding of the symptoms of mental illness and the ability to assess the influence a mental illness might be having on a person's behaviour and comprehension.

"The most important part of the report and what comes after is making sure people living with mental illness are involved in the delivery of training," says Dr. Cotton, who earned a Diamond Jubilee Medal recognizing her work in relation to interactions between police and people with mental illness.

The TEMPO report is the result of a comprehensive survey of Canadian police organizations; a literature review; an international comparative review of police learning programs; and direct interviews with a variety of police and mental health professionals.

The report was launched at the 109th annual conference of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP).

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