What Your Patients are Hearing

Michigan police receive training to recognize mental illness


Responding to a police call can prove dangerous. In those kinds of high-pressure situations, agitation or other manifestations of mental illness might be mistaken for violent intent – with disastrous results.


In Kalamazoo, Mich., crime response training now includes subduing suspects without using violent force. “Through training and education, and scenarios that we use in the training, [the officers] start to detect the different cues or indicators where they start to see that this is really a crisis event. And we treat it as a medical issue and get that person the help that they need,” said Rafael Diaz, executive lieutenant with the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety in an interview on Michigan NPR.

In the training, called the Crisis Intervention Team model, the goal is to slow down the pace of the interaction and keep some distance between themselves and the suspect after officers recognize signs of mental illness. Both responses can lower the chances of a lash-out response.

The result has been a drop in violent engagements between officers and suspects. “The number of injuries to officers goes down, the number of injuries to the person in crisis goes down, and there is a huge benefit to society there if you don’t have to use physical force,” Mr. Diaz said.

Animal neglect and mental health

Images of neglected and abused livestock on farms can inspire thoughts of how someone could mistreat the animals in their care. “Frankly, if you can’t understand that, it’s probably a good thing. It means you haven’t been in the depths of low, low mental health, depression, and anxiety,” Andria Jones-Bitton, DVM, PhD, said in an interview with the Western Producer.

Dr. Jones-Bitton is a veterinarian and epidemiologist at the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph. She is studying the mental health and mental resilience of farmers and veterinarians.

“If farmers are struggling with their own well-being and motivation, they’re likely going to find it difficult to invest in improving animal welfare. When we’re mentally unwell, it’s hard to care for ourselves, let alone to care for others, even when those others are really important to us,” she said.

A national survey of Canadian farmers by Dr. Jones-Bitton showed high levels of stress and diminished ability to cope with the pressures that come with running a livestock farm. “What makes me the most upset is I have everything I’ve ever dreamed of – love, family, and a farm, and all I feel is overwhelmed out of control and sad,” one respondent said.

The problems are not unique to Canada. Studies from Ireland, for example, documented an association between animal neglect cases and the mental health, drug/alcohol addiction, and social problems of farmers.

“Even if you didn’t care about the humans that were struggling and you only cared about the animal welfare, you’d be wise to address the issue of farmer stress,” Dr. Jones-Britton said.

Depression and rural America

A recent “Farming in Tough Times” workshop that convened in Minnesota focused on the mental health of farmers. Making a living is challenging for many reasons. One is that prices for commodities are set by others.

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