Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The danger in averting suicide

In a Maryland county, law enforcement doesn’t allow the crisis team to put their own lives at risk. That means if they are called to a standoff, there isn’t much they can do.

Not sick enough to get a hospital bed, too sick to get help from the crisis team – once again, it is law enforcement officers who are forced to fill this bizarre void, stepping in to deal with people in acute psychiatric crisis because the situation is too dangerous for those who are actually trained to handle it.

Sure, police get training on dealing with people in mental health crises. And it is a good day when police are able to stop a suicide. But an estimated 5,000 suicides a year are completed by people with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, many of them untreated. Some people die in standoffs or shootouts – including some law enforcement officers.

Expecting police to be there in time to avert suicide isn’t really good public policy. Helping people before a standoff or suicide is far better for everyone.

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