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#JamesDonaldson on #MentalHealth – #PoliceOfficers With Untreated #MentalIllness Are The Real Danger


By Rashaad Thomas

A sign at the protest again #police brutality against #Black people in Scottsdale on June 7, 2020. Photo by Chloe Jones | Arizona Mirror

Johnny Law is deathly afraid of #mentalillness. And that fear creates a threat to the public: #Policeofficers with untreated #mentalhealth issues remaining on duty.

And I can’t help but think that an officer’s assessment of a person’s #mentalhealth is more salient than race during stressful situations — and that it explains the reason police officers shoot people with #mentaldisorders and #Black people more frequently than any others.   

Johnny Law’s stressors and prejudices against people who embody the marginalized intersection of #mentalhealth, race, gender and socioeconomic status influences his mental perception and sudden propensity for use of non-lethal or deadly force. 

And there’s no amount of bias or #mentalhealthcrisis training that will change an officer’s racial biases and fear of #mentalillness.

Research shows 50% of people killed by #police live with a #mentalillness. Those living with treated #mentaldisorders are four times more likely to be fatally shot by the #police. And Johnny Law is 16 times more likely to use lethal force against people living with an untreated #mentaldisorder. #Race also transforms people into targets.  

#Police violence is a leading cause of death among #Black men, who are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by #police than white #men. Johnny Law will kill one in 100,000 #Black #men and #boys in a lifetime. 

The way I see it, that means #Black #men with an untreated #mentaldisorder are 40 times more likely to be executed by the #police.  

Paranoia, insufficient adaptability and the police force’s code of silence lead to alcohol or drug abuse, #domesticviolence, #mentalhealthchallenges and #suicide among #officers. 

#Police candidates go through a recruitment process that includes a psychological test. But the test is not designed to examine the candidate’s #mentalhealth. Instead, the test examines the personality traits of the applicants and determines whether they are suitable for the high-risk profession.

Once a #policeofficer is hired, they are generally only ordered to meet with a department psychologist after a fatal shooting. Practically speaking, a #policeofficer can go his or her whole career without a psych evaluation. 

But ethical dilemmas abound for the psychologists working with #policedepartments.  

#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

It is difficult for the psychologist to maintain professional standards and meet the #policedepartment’s needs. If they diagnose an officer with a #mentalhealthdisorder, it could lead to suspension or job loss. Their working relationship’s ethical dilemmas place Johnny Law’s life and public safety in danger. 

There is ample evidence that a #policeofficer’s daily exposure to stressful scenarios and the worst elements of society lead to #posttraumaticstressdisorder (#PTSD): Nationwide, reports state 15% of #police live with #PTSD. Law enforcement officers also commit #domesticviolence at high rates, with one study finding that 40% of #police families experience #domesticviolence, between two and four times the rate in the general public. More than one in five #policeofficers use alcohol to cope with the physical and #mental demands of the job. 

Studies show the #police profession is at a higher risk for #mentalhealth episodes than any other profession. #Policeofficers are subjected to physical injuries, deaths and high stress situations on a daily basis leading to 17 out of 100,000 #policeofficers who take their lives. In 2019, 228 police died by #suicide.  

#Suicide is a product of #mentaldisorders, firearms at home, violent behavior toward others, substance abuse, fatal shootings and homicide. But the failure to charge #policeofficers after they fatally shoot an unarmed person with a #mentalillness or #Black person is due to the inherent conflict of interest in the relationship between #police and prosecutors.   

Having prosecutors investigate the #policedepartment is hardly different from the #police investigating themselves. Prosecutors need #policeofficers to investigate crimes, build cases and testify in court, and #policeofficers rely on prosecutors to approve criminal charges in every case. Their relationship enforces the blue wall of silence, which manifests into a toxic masculine culture that believes officers seeking help from the chaplain or on-site psychologist are weak. 

It’s hard not to conclude that prosecutors give #policeofficers every benefit of the doubt and pull their punches when it comes time to pursue criminal cases — decisions that enable even those #officers battling #mentalillness to avoid all consequences when they act as judge, jury and executioner.

All too often, prosecutors conclude that #officers who use lethal force are justified — and even if they don’t, they frequently don’t pursue charges because they fear losing at trial. And the #police are bolstered by law-and-order, tough-on-crime (just not the white-collar kind) leaders like former #PresidentDonaldTrump, who said #police need “to take mentally deranged and dangerous people off the street.”

But the people with a mental illness are not the dangerous people on the street. Society’s lack of education and discourse feeds the irrational fear of people who continue to suffer. The “dangerous people” who need to be taken off the street are the police officers with untreated mental illness. 

If we do that, to borrow Trump’s own words, we “won’t have to worry so much about them” continuing to kill more people living with #mentalillness or unarmed #Black people.

Photo by Ludmila Aleksandra on Pexels.com

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