Manual for police officers in handling the mentally ill

Officials overseeing the affairs of the Mt. Gay Psychiatric Hospital are implementing a manual developed for police officers to effectively handle persons with mental illness.

Officials of Mt. Gay Psychiatric Hospital host press conference

Officials of Mt. Gay Psychiatric Hospital host press conference

Officials said the manual was put together in 2012 but will be practically enforced hence forth with the aim of decreasing incidences among police officers, clients and the community at large.

Chief Nursing Officer at Mt. Gay Psychiatric Hospital, Joanna Humphrey was speaking on the initiative in a media conference held at the hospital last Thursday.

“Most of the time we have police officers are being called upon on a regular basis throughout the tri-island state to assist persons to come for treatment. So because it was fit and with the assistance of PAHO and WHO technical support, we were able to develop a manual so that police officers can be trained in the management of persons with a mental illness,” she said.

According to Nurse Humphrey, there is still some work to do in the document because they want to see the inclusion of some practical sessions within.

“Training sessions have begun with police officers since 2012 and we also had follow-up sessions last year and we have definitely seen an improvement especially as it relates to partnering; the relationship that we have with the police officers and the community mental health workers that we have in the community. Most of the times the police officers will get in contact with the community members and assist in apprehending persons to take them in for treatment,” she said

Nurse Humphrey acknowledged that there will be circumstances in which uncontrollable situations will occur that will require officers to use whatever force they think necessary to preserve life.

A few weeks ago, the police were called in to apprehend a man in the St. Patrick area believed to be mentally ill.

The man was reportedly shot and his body thrown into a police vehicle and taken to a nearby  hospital for treatment.

The victim was eventually pronounced dead.

Speculation is rife that a Coroner’s Inquest will be conducted by a Magistrate into the killing.

Nurse Humphrey is hopeful that the document and training given to police officers will prevent occurrences like these.

The manual laid out areas of crisis intervention; how mentally challenged persons should be approached.

It also gives them some knowledge as to how one can  identify some of the signs and symptoms of somebody with a mental illness and most of all give the time they take from apprehension to treatment.

The Chief Nurse described the manual as “a working document, we need to improve it and we will do so as the need (arises)”.

She noted that there was a reduction in some of the problems experienced in the past with police officers as it relates to the management of the mentally ill.

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