Patrick DeBow, FHR Director of Peer Recovery Services, Southeast, took part in the facilitation of a recent Crisis Intervention Team Training, hosted by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Delaware.
“This is designed to train law enforcement officers how to engage people who are in a mental health crisis with the objectives of having better outcomes,” explained Dr. Joshua Thomas, Executive Director of NAMI Delaware. “… Hopefully reducing the number of people that get arrested, so diverting individuals from the criminal justice system, increasing the number of people connected to treatment and support resources, and thereby reducing the amount of use of force, as well as the chance of injury.”
As part of the 40-hour training, DeBow spoke about his personal experiences with the police, sharing details about fears he could recall from his past.
“We’re in fight or flight mode, and we’re terrified – completely,” he explained. “I had issues of encountering police force when I was hearing voices and seeing visions. Luckily for me, that was not a lifelong diagnosis. I had so much going on inside my head, and in front of me, and hearing things, that all I was really trying to do was sort out what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s real and what’s not, and I’m sure many of you encounter this in your work.”
One eye-opening component of this training is an exercise called “Hearing Voices,” developed by Patricia Deegan, who lives with schizophrenia.
“Every officer received an MP3 player and had the opportunity to hear the distressing voices while being put through simulated exercises, so that officers have first-hand knowledge of what a police encounter may be like when those you encounter are not sensitive or mindful of you,” shared Thomas.
Officers also learned the importance of utilizing de-escalation strategies, and how to resolve situations with individuals who may be experiencing a crisis. Community resources and support programs, like FHR, were also shared with trainees.
“One of my goals professionally and personally is to break stigma,” DeBow added. “Because I know when I come out and speak, this isn’t the impression of someone who was in prison 13 years ago, or an addict, or someone with mental health issues. So, I hope that provides hope for not only the people I work with that have had similar experiences, but for you all, to know that some of us make it. I’m here to give these individuals a voice.”