The need for work-related training and re-training is real.
This need is heightened for those who serve and protect the public, specifically, the police. The published results of the inquest by a coroner’s jury into police reactions to mental health crises, highlight the need for a different kind of training in order to protect all members of the public.
To put our training and development studies into practice, the results of the inquest stand as a classic needs analysis. It provides organizational, task and person analyses and recommendations to change the outcomes of existing practices through new skills and organizational training.
In the absence of any other methodologies, the responses by the police in crisis situations are learned. The police, as a unit, have been trained to apply a certain set of protocols in any given situation. This is understandable given the life threatening circumstances the police deal with each and every day. Their job is to protect us, the public, from harm.
Individual police officers also need to protect themselves from harm. When the risk of harm is real, when the threat to life is real, police are trained to react in a certain way. As noted in the information from the coroner’s jury, the ‘use of force’ model is the trained reaction an individual police officer has learned to use in a crisis situation.
When dealing with mental health issues, the modes and methods of handling crises have a different type of challenge. The threat to life and public safety may be the same. When the person ‘causing’ the risk and the threat is mentally ill, however, the trained response through the ‘use of force, too often ends with tragic results.
In order to provide a different response, an individual police officer must be equipped with the right tools. These tools come from a collective and organizational commitment to train the workforce with new skills and approaches to save lives and protect the public. These approaches include increasing an understanding of mental health issues, the impact of the illness on individuals and training on de-escalation techniques in conflict situations in order to reduce the risk of harm to everyone involved.
This is not an easy task. To be successful, we all need to increase our understanding and support for individuals coping with mental health issues and for those who serve and protect us.
The time for learning to change has begun, and must continue, in order to produce different outcomes for the future.
- What is de-escalation training? How does it differ from ‘use of force’ as a conflict resolution tool?
- How could you include mental health training in your current workplace? What type of training would you recommend?