We’re in quite the tumultuous time here in the United States when it comes to the fragile fabric of how laws are enforced in our society. A tremendous amount of attention has been focused on shootings that have happened both by the police and where the police are victims of unprovoked attacks. What we’re not talking about is unearthing the number of individuals with mental illness who are murdered by the police. In some cases, the stigma around our conditions isn’t just uncomfortable; it can be deadly.
A recent article in USA Today puts a spotlight on the speed in which policymakers and police departments across the country are trying to ensure mental health training for officers in the line of duty. According to the article, “A study by the Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center published last year found that people with mental illness are 16 times more likely than others to be killed by police, while the National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates 15% of men and 30% women annually booked at U.S. jails have mental health problems.”
The answer to these issues is increased training around mental illness and how to properly handle and assist someone who is dealing with a mental health concern, diagnosed or not. The spotlight on the issue has increased after a September 27th fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in California whose sister says she called police for help when he was in the midst of a mental health crisis.
We continue to urge more conversations around police training and increased education for all. Mental illness is a valid medical condition, one that requires assistance, understanding, and proper diagnosis and treatment, not violence. We will continue to work for the day when our brothers and sisters who are living with this disease can live their lives free of stigma. It’s a day we long for, and we’ll get there someday with a little hope and grace.