Perhaps the reason why many people don’t seek help for their mental illnesses, is simply because they don’t realize that they have any. 84% of the time between the first symptoms of mental illness and the first time seeking any treatment, is spent not recognizing the signs. The other 16% of time is actually spent getting help. Maybe if money was utilized to implement more early intervention programs in schools across the nation, the government wouldn’t have to waste over $30,000 in a year on incarcerations. Also important to note, is that police shot and killed 124 people dealing with some sort of mental health crisis in the first 6 months of 2015. (washingtonpost.com) 1 in 4 people killed by the hands of an officer will have some case of a serious mental illness. So what do these alarming statistics mean? Simply put, it means that law enforcement has become the first responders to those needing some sort of mental health intervention…and they clearly don’t know what they’re doing.
Now I don’t know about you, but when I think of police shootings – especially those that end murder – the first city that comes to mind is my own: Chicago. Many people have heard the story of 17 year old Laquan McDonald, and even may have seen the video of him being slain by Chicago PD on October 20, 2014. What many people don’t know however, was that Laquan was a young man who was trying to navigate though life with a handful of mental illnesses for which he didn’t have much support. He was diagnosed with having learning disabilities, episodic mood disorder, bipolar disorder, and also post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD by the time he was 11 years old. (www.chicagosuntimes.com) Common symptoms of PTSD include: Heightened reactivity to stimuli, anxiety, depression, agitation, irritability, hostility, self-destructive behavior, emotional detachment, and on and on. Records from Child Protective Services show that Laquan also faced malnourishment, physical and sexual abuse while in foster care – all before the age of 7.
Laquan had been prescribed medication for his mental illnesses, but he refused to take them because he grew up with the notion that medication was for “slow people”. A common misconception in the African American community. Having gotten his schooling from the Chicago Public School system, there wasn’t much support for him in dealing with his complex mental issues or even resources for him to educate himself more about what he was experiencing. Thus, on that gloomy October night that would show to be his last, Laquan was found walking in the middle of a busy street, acting and speaking irraticlly with a knife in his hand. It is very well possible that he was experiencing a mental or psychotic break, due to evidence from a report by Child Welfare Services that stated he had been having a difficult time dealing with a recent family dispute. The officer that arrived on scene and eventually took Laquan’s life was 37 year old Jason Van Dyke.
Van Dyke gave Laquan SIXTEEN bullets, and attempted to justify his actions by falsifying his report to say that he feared for his life as Laquan lunged toward him with a knife…but the dash cam showed different. The video showed Laquan walking away from officers, while still receiving the fatal rounds. Why didn’t anyone try to talk to the apparently distraught Laquan and try to deescalate the situation? Was it simply easier to take the teens life, in opposed to calling in more qualified back up that had the training to deal with mental health patients? Chicago PD participates is one of the 2700 Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) in the nation. CIT was created in 1988 in an effort to educate law enforcement and first responders on how to handle calls that involve people with mental health issues appropriately. (www.nami.org) Although there are CIT programs that exist, the criteria for participating is very laxed: Training only requires 40 hours to complete, and is not a requirement for officers. In other words, only those that want to participate sign up, there is no law or requirement currently in place making it madetory….
Next Case: Korryn Gaines
Jasmine JeNay ✨