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#JamesDonaldson on #MentalHealth – #MentalHealth Online: #Police Posts Of Crises May Traumatize

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In this Aug. 3, 2021 photo a man jogs past a sign about crisis counseling on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. In recent years, officials who oversee so-called suicide hotspots like San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and the George Washington Bridge, which spans New York City and New Jersey, have worked to install prevention or deterrent systems. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

#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

In this Aug. 3, 2021, photo Patrol officer Nicolas Serrano looks out at a suicide barrier under construction below the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. In recent years, officials who oversee so-called suicide hotspots like San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and the George Washington Bridge, which spans New York City and New Jersey, have worked to install prevention or deterrent systems. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
In this Aug. 9. 2021, photo pedestrians walk across the George Washington Bridge, underneath netting designed to prevent jumping off the bridge, in New York. In recent years, officials who oversee so-called suicide hotspots like San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and the George Washington Bridge, which spans New York City and New Jersey, have worked to install prevention or deterrent systems. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
In this Aug. 9, 2021, photo the lower Manhattan skyline is seen through the fence and netting covering the pedestrian walkway on the George Washington Bridge in New York. In recent years, officials who oversee so-called suicide hotspots like San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and the George Washington Bridge, which spans New York City and New Jersey, have worked to install prevention or deterrent systems. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
In this Aug. 3, 2021 photo people walk past an emergency phone and numbers for crisis counseling on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  In recent years, officials who oversee so-called suicide hotspots like San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and the George Washington Bridge, which spans New York City and New Jersey, have worked to install prevention or deterrent systems. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
In this Aug. 10, 2021, photo mental health advocate Kevin Berthia, who has survived his own suicide attempts, wears wrists bands with the name of his mental health foundation, in Sacramento, Calif. Berthia has turned his experience, including a suicide attempt on the Golden Gate Bridge, into advocacy for other people in crisis. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
In this Aug. 3, 2021, photo retired California Highway Patrol officer Kevin Briggs looks out at the Golden Gate Bridge near Sausalito, Calif. Briggs responded to many suicide attempts on the Golden Gate Bridge during his career. He met Kevin Berthia in 2005 when Berthia attempted suicide and now the two speak nationally about suicide prevention. Briggs joined the CHP in 1990 and began responding to emergencies on the bridge in 1994, where he would work with people in crisis four to six times a month. He retired in 2013. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
In this Aug. 10, 2021, photo mental health advocate Kevin Berthia, who has survived his own suicide attempts, poses in Sacramento, Calif. Berthia has turned his experience, including suicide attempt on the Golden Gate Bridge, into advocacy for other people in crisis. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
In this Aug. 10, 2021, photo mental health advocate Kevin Berthia, who has survived his own suicide attempts talks with his son, Karter, 7, in Sacramento, Calif. Berthia has turned his experience, including a suicide attempt on the Golden Gate Bridge, into advocacy for other people in crisis. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
In this Aug. 3, 2021 photo two women pass by as from left, service operator William Sangregory, ironworker Phillip Chaney, patrol officer Nicolas Serrano and lieutenant Roger Elauria, talk by a patrol vehicle on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
In this Aug. 3, 2021 photo retired California Highway Patrol officer Kevin Briggs poses below the Golden Gate Bridge near Sausalito, Calif. Briggs responded to many suicide attempts on the Golden Gate Bridge during his career. He met Kevin Berthia in 2005 when Berthia attempted suicide and now the two speak nationally about suicide prevention. Briggs joined the CHP in 1990 and began responding to emergencies on the bridge in 1994, where he would work with people in crisis four to six times a month. He retired in 2013. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Skip Ad By Stefanie Dazio The Associated Press

The videos are difficult to watch.

In one, a man dangles over the edge of an Oklahoma City overpass, his legs swinging in midair as #police grab his arms and pull him from the brink. In another, a woman hangs high above the Los Angeles Harbor as a half-dozen #officers drag her, head-first, up the side of the bridge. The panicked voices of cops cry out, “We got you, we got you!” just before they pin her to the ground and pull out handcuffs.

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EDITOR’S NOTE — This story includes discussion of #suicide. If you or someone you know needs help, please call the #NationalSuicidePreventionLifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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The short clips were posted on official law enforcement #socialmedia accounts, part of a longstanding practice by #police agencies to showcase their lifesaving efforts online — especially in 2021 as desperation grows for positive press amid accusations of excessive force and #racism following #GeorgeFloyd’s murder, and rising gun violence and killings.

But with renewed attention on #officer interactions with people who are suffering from #mentalhealthissues, experts and advocates are taking another look at these posts with an eye toward whether they exploit the very victims law enforcement just saved.

“It’s like we were living in this tragedy with them,” said Kevin Berthia, a #mentalhealthadvocate who has survived his own #suicideattempts. “Now how is that not creating trauma for anybody else? Who else is this triggering?”

The posts are easy to find on #Facebook, #Instagram and #Twitter. #Policedepartments nationwide may upload them without the permission of the person in crisis — though their identities are obscured — without a warning about contents and without consulting #mentalhealthprofessionals.

Debbie Plotnick, vice president for state and federal advocacy at #MentalHealth America, reviewed a half-dozen from around the country.

“Yes, they helped get a person down and that is commendable,” she said, but added: “I’m not seeing that this has value in helping people’s #mentalhealth.”

While #police say #mentalhealth is their priority, the footage appears to tell a different story. Law enforcement agencies have long tried to showcase the harrowing and dangerous work of fighting crime and saving lives, and the feeds also include officers delivering babies, acts of kindness and shows of strength.

The New York #PoliceDepartment, along with images of smiling cops, often tweets detailed captions that include the exact pier someone jumped from or the number of pills they swallowed before the officers “saved” them. Other posts include videos from the scene.

Yet the #AmericanAssociationofSuicidology specifically suggests that any reporting on #suicide or #suicideattempts not include the method or location. The association recommends that photos and videos from the scene also be excluded, even if the person’s identity is concealed.

The NYPD declined requests for comment.

Some experts fear copycats, saying such detailed posts — like the recent Los Angeles #PoliceDepartment posts with body-cam footage of the woman’s #suicideattempt on the bridge — basically give a manual to vulnerable people.

“Here’s a spot on the bridge where it literally took like six uniformed #policeofficers to drag this person back over the side,” said Jonathan Singer, president of the #AmericanAssociationofSuicidology.

The LAPD declined to comment, but said in a statement that it does not have a specific policy in these cases. The agency said it strives to protect the individual’s identity but does not typically seek permission beforehand.

In the 55-second video — posted to #Facebook, #Twitter and #Instagram less than a month after the incident — #police were called to the bridge in San Pedro after the #woman was seen climbing over the side. The scene is fraught with tension — rushing wind, the woman’s panicked breathing, the squawking of the radios echoing off the bridge’s metal, the clicking of handcuffs.

“Great teamwork resulted in her receiving the help she needed,” the LAPD’s posts said, with a link to the #NationalSuicidePreventionLifeline’s website. “Remember, you are never alone and there is always help.”

In Oklahoma City, the overpass video posted to the #police department’s #Facebook page in May includes body-cam footage and interviews with responding #officers. The man’s face is blurred out, though the department did not seek his permission before posting the video.

The final clip shows the man being loaded into a #police cruiser with the text: “After rescuing the man, #officers took him to the hospital and started the process of getting him the help he needed.” The phone number of the #NationalSuicidePreventionLifeline follows.

Master Sgt. Gary Knight, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma City #Police Department, said the goal was showing residents how the actions of the officers saved the man’s life during the two-hour incident.

“The last thing we ever want to do is hinder somebody’s recovery when they’ve been in a state of crisis,” Knight said. “We’re not out here to try to make somebody’s condition worse. That’s why we showed up in the first place — to try to help that person.”

Daniel Reidenberg, executive director of the Minnesota-based #SuicideAwareness Voices of Education, said such #socialmedia posts may actually deter viewers from calling 911, for fear they might also get handcuffed or arrested.

“It’s too complex of an issue to boil down into a video like that,” he said.

Ronnie Walker agrees. Her stepson died by #suicide when he was a college junior, prompting her to form a now-international support group that includes an online forum for other grieving families, the Illinois-based nonprofit Alliance of Hope For #Suicide Loss Survivors.

“It was really devastating for everybody who knew and loved him,” she said, speaking on the 26th anniversary of her stepson’s death. “It was as if a grenade went off in our family and everyone was wounded, each in their own way.”

Looking at the #police posts, Walker said, could easily be traumatizing for people who have lost loved ones to #suicide.

“I don’t want to dismiss the heroism of the #police or that they have kindness in their hearts,” she said. “I just don’t see some of those videos as portraying that or conveying that. It’s more sensational.”

The #police department of Appleton, Wisconsin — a city of 74,000 north of Milwaukee — took a different approach. They had discussions for nearly a month before going public in February with an eight-minute #suicide intervention video that is much less explicit than others. They also sought permission from the man who had been in crisis and his family and worked with #mentalhealth organizations.

“Is this going to be positive for our community? Is this actually going to cause the conversations that we want to happen around #mentalhealth?” Lt. Meghan Cash said. “Or is this just a video?”

In recent years, officials who oversee so-called #suicide hot spots like San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and the George Washington Bridge, which connects New York City and New Jersey, have worked to install prevention or deterrent systems.

About 30 people die by #suicide annually on the Golden Gate Bridge, and another 150-plus people try to take their lives there each year. Many come in contact with the 36 members of the bridge patrol — whose captain, David Rivera, hopes new conversations around #mentalhealth, like Simone Biles’ discussions at the Olympics, will encourage people to get help.

Rivera’s department does not post publicly about #suicide interventions, and instead chooses to privately honor its members and others who may have been involved in rescues, like bridge ironworkers, roadway staffers or officers from other #police agencies.

“We can recognize them and write up a commendation,” Rivera said.

Berthia, the #mentalhealthadvocate, went to the bridge in 2005 with the intent to end his life. His encounter over the railing with a California Highway Patrol officer was captured in a photograph published on The San Francisco Chronicle’s front page. The picture haunted him for years.

“It brought me back to the day,” Berthia said. “It brought me back to the moment. It brought me back to the wind, and the smell.”

Now, Berthia speaks nationally about #suicideprevention, and says there’s a long way to go on #mentalhealthawareness. Still, his message to people in crisis is a hopeful one.

“I need you here,” he says, “I need you here. So please call or reach out, do whatever you’ve got to do.”

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This story has been updated to correct where the nonprofit organization Alliance of Hope For #Suicide Loss Survivors, an international support group that has an online forum for families whose loved ones have died by #suicide, is based. It is based in Illinois, not Hawaii.

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Associated Press video journalists Angie Wang in Atlanta and Haven Daley in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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