On Tuesday April 30, 2019, eighty eight (88) Police Officers received certificates of participation in de-escalating skills in dealing with mentally ill persons. Prior to this batch, seventy nine (79) Police Recruits received the same training from professionals in the Department of Mental Health in the Ministry of Health and the Environment.
In delivering brief remarks at the closing ceremony which was held at the Old Montrose Police Lecture Hall, Elizabeth Sister Medford said that the training is a significant step forward in the re-integration towards mental health into primary care. She articulated that police officers are now more knowledgeable, competent, confident and certified in the delivery of effective and efficient care to mentally ill patients. Sister Medford further stated that the police who are first in line to being called upon many times in the community, now have the skills and knowledge that they need to de-escalate challenging situations, keeping the patients safe and also preventing injury to themselves.
According to her, the Mental Health Department in going forward will continue to collaborate with the police for smooth transition of the integration process. She congratulated all the officers who have completed the training and told them that they are making a difference in the eradication of the stigma that is attach to the mentally ill patients; and for helping them to chart new dimensions for improvement in the quality of care for the mentally ill patients.
Sister Medford disclosed that because of the work being done by the Mental Health Department, the institution has made it into the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Magazine with respect to the department’s work in the re-integration into primary care of mental health and her department is leading in the Caribbean in this area.
Sister Medford extended special thanks to Prime Minister, Dr. Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, the staff of Mental Health Rehabilitation and Commissioner of Police, Mr. Colin John whose combined effort she said has made the training possible.
Speaking at the ceremony, Commissioner of Police, Mr. Colin John, thanked Sister Medford and her staff for the initiative to have Police Officers trained in the area of handling mentally ill persons. The Commissioner said that mental health illness is just another serious illness. In qualifying this statement, the Commissioner echoed singer/song writer Demi Lovato who said “I wish that people could understand that the brain is the most important organ of the body. Just because you cannot see mental illness like you can see a broken bone does not mean that it is not as detrimental or devastating to a family or an individual.”
He went on to say, the fact that we cannot see mental illness is equally more devastating and with that in mind the officers have the necessary training and skills to deal with mentally ill persons. Mr. John informed the gathering that in his capacity as Commissioner of Police, many questions are thrown at him by Police Officers in relation to how they are supposed to deal with mentally ill persons, when they are not trained to deal with them. In his response, the Commissioner told the officers to just look at dealing with mentally ill persons as a part of preventative policing.
He stressed that if the police fail to act on an initial report, they may be forced to act on a more serious report which can result in fatal or severe injuries; which would make the police work more strenuous if the situation is not dealt with in a timely manner.
The Commissioner said that the training was one of necessity and is an important tool in the police crime prevention kit. He concluded his remarks by saying that he hoped the officers have grasp the knowledge imparted to them and that it will derive practical benefits in the execution of their duty.
In giving a review of the training, Sgt. 281 Egbert Winston Maloney, one of the participants stated that the training was very timely and executed properly. He said that it is common practice for police officers to have encounters with mentally challenged persons at some point in their daily duties.
According to him, based on the actions or response of the police officer, he/she can either de-escalate the situation or escalate it. He expressed confidence that the officers who were trained would be better equipped to deal with mentally ill persons because they are more informed about some of the methods to employ when dealing with them.