The Importance of Mental Health

Man and teen

A few weeks ago, I contributed to an article published on the front page of The Mercury News. It’s subject; a recent report on SJPD ‘use of force’ and the steps they have taken to improve interactions between police officers and the community.

As part-two of a story released in January 2018, the article highlights the recent positive steps taken by SJPD Chief Eddie Garcia in creating transparency around citizen complaints against the department. In addition to commending the Chief’s efforts, the article touches on a second, related issue; the lack of mental health awareness within the department.

There is a distinct dilemma created when officers are called to a scene where a citizen with mental health issues is posing a threat to themselves or others. How well prepared are officers to deal with such situations? The simple answer is… they’re not.

According to the Independent Police Auditor annual report “six of eight officer-involved shootings in San Jose in 2017 involved someone with a mental illness, and three of them died.”

Here is some of what I had to say to The Mercury News about the subject; “We don’t recognize how much anxiety and trauma are going on in our communities, and it is never reviewed with a mental-health lens. (African Americans) are overrepresented in jails, underrepresented in mental health (services). It’s not just the police, it’s society.”

I want there to be more conversation about the Mental Health needs of our communities, especially our communities of color. We need to step up our game and increase access to counseling services to prevent things like unnecessary incarceration, rampant use of force, and the shooting of folks with treatable mental health issues.

Let’s be the change we want to see in our society. To get the conversation started, please feel free to leave your ideas and comments below.


Link to the Mercury News article:

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