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Opinion: Psychiatric Survivor Inside a Police Training Conference

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Pat Risser, who is a psychiatric survivor and a MindFreedom member attended a major national conference about training the police for dealing with citizens labeled with mental health problems. In this exclusive inside view, the author warns of a rising "paramilitary" between police and the mental health system. This psychiatric survivor concludes, "Be afraid, be very afraid!"

Opinion: Psychiatric Survivor Inside a Police Training Conference

Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) is sweeping the nation... The author asks how much is and who much is mental health industry propaganda?

[The analysis and language of this opinion piece are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the official position of MFI. This essay was originally published with the author anonymous, but Pat has agreed to list his name as of Nov. 2008. Thanks Pat!]


Psychiatric Crisis and Law Enforcement

by Pat Risser


I attended the National Crisis Intervention Training -- or CIT for short -- in Memphis, Tennessee from Monday, August 27 to Thursday, August 30, 2007.

I was a bit leery of going because I was unsure of how to present a workshop to law enforcement officers. Based upon my limited personal experience, I only knew of law enforcement as ultimate authority figures. The uniforms are designed to be threatening and intimidating. Like the military (where many officers were originally trained) most of the attendees wore crew cut hair. It was pretty easy to identify law enforcement officers just by the "look."

Here is information about the creation of CIT from sources on the web:



CIT stands for "Crisis Intervention Team," and refers to a collaborative effort between law enforcement and the mental health community to help law enforcement officers handle incidents involving mentally ill people. The first CIT program began in Memphis, Tennessee.

In 1987, 27 year-old Joseph Dewayne Robinson was shot and killed during an incident with the Memphis Police Department. This shooting outraged the community.

Following this fatal shooting, in 1988, the Memphis Police Department joined in partnership with the Memphis Chapter of the Alliance on Mental Illness (AMI), mental health providers, and two local universities (the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee) in organizing, training, and implementing a specialized unit.

This unique and creative alliance was established for the purpose of developing a more intelligent, understandable, and safe approach to mental crisis events. This community effort was the genesis of the Memphis Police Department's Crisis Intervention Team.

CIT has now spread to most major cities and over 2300 law enforcement agencies around the country.


Nothing About Us Without Us!



That's great but something's missing:

NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US! (see model curriculum at the bottom).

Training for CIT is done by local National Alliance on Mental Illness - a primarily "family member" organization, also known as NAMI, and the local mental health community. Mostly, this means that for 40 hours of training, consumers/survivors/current and former mental patients are pretty much left out.

Yes, we get to do anywhere from two to four hours of the training but that's generally less than 10%.

My first problem with CIT is that we're pretty much left out. My second problem is that the bulk of the training is done by people who are almost totally "medical model" in their belief system.

CIT training allegedly trains law enforcement officers to assess "mental illness." When they feel they are interacting with someone they consider might be "mentally ill" they then practice techniques designed to connect with the person and convince them to go with the officers to some sort of "treatment."

That leads to the next problems I have with CIT.

  • First, officers aren't qualified to "assess" based upon 40 hours of training. In my opinion, not even psychiatrists are able to assess to the extent that two of them will agree. Assessment is a judgment call and I am very uncomfortable with law enforcement passing judgment on people in this manner.
  • Secondly, I don't believe in "mental illness" and the fact that officers will be judging and then directing people to "treatment" is a dangerous use of implied authority as coercion.


I envision several dangerous scenario's:


Law enforcement could be used to sweep people into forced or coerced "treatment" who are really trying to cope with social issues such as poverty, homelessness and social oppression.

Law enforcement through CIT training develop relationships with "family members" and then when a family member is distressed, they can call and report someone who is allegedly "mentally ill" and have that person taken into the custody of the mental illness "treatment" system.

This enables the ultra right-wing conservative NAMI (heavily influenced by the psycho-pharmaceutical industry) to have law enforcement (quasi-military) as their "enFORCEment" branch. Law enforcement have already started to use "less than lethal force" such as tasers and beanbag guns however, there have been many fatalities.

The fanatical NAMI even supplies most of the "consumers" for the training by using those who are already pretty co-opted and who serve as NAMI poster children. They are trained to recite the medical model mantra about the efficacy of psychiatric drugs without even blinking.

I've nothing against psychiatric drugs but I worry about the recent report that states that those of us who have been psychiatrically labeled live a shortened life span of an average of 25 years less than those who haven't received psychiatric "treatment."

I worry about the connection to those drugs that cause all sorts of debilitating effects from weight gain to diabetes to sudden death. NAMI feels that anything that "controls" us and makes us less of an inconvenience to the families is a good thing and the drugs do that very well.

NAMI and the medical model mental health system feel that a quiet client who causes no community disturbance is deemed "improved" no matter how miserable or incapacitated the person may feel as a result of the "treatment." This is how they are training law enforcement: force people to take drugs, drugs and more drugs and if they won't take them, make them.


Time to Panic?


I wasn't scared when I went to this conference.

I was a bit unsure of how to approach law enforcement officers since I felt that it would not sit well with their "authority figure" persona to have me try to act as if they had something to learn. I did okay. I presented on how to help change from a culture of weapons to a culture of words.

Some attendees seemed almost puzzled because I wasn't typical medical model. I spoke of discrimination and prejudice. I spoke of how the system oppresses mental patients and teaches them learned dependency. A few seemed to understand.

Then I went out and interacted with others at the rest of the conference and I got more and more scared.

I overheard NAMI fanatics and I saw NAMI folks "suck up" to the cops and I saw the cops "suck up" to NAMI folks and in the midst of this mutual admiration society, I started to get panicky.

I recalled another fanatic group in the 1930's and 1940's who used the muscle of a heavily armed law enforcement branch to impose their will. I started to "flashback" to scenes of goose-stepping authorities imposing oppression on those they deemed different and not "pure" - people sort of like those of us who have been labeled as having a brain disease caused by an impure mind due to a chemical imbalance.

I watched the disingenuous smiles of the NAMI folks and I realized that I'd come face to face with the enemy. Those of us who are part of the movement for human rights in opposition to psychiatric oppression need to beware because, unbeknownst to most of us, NAMI is literally building an paramilitary army out of law enforcement that will be the enFORCEment arm of involuntary treatment.

Be afraid, be very afraid!


&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&


CRISIS INTERVENTION TEAM (CIT) TRAINING PROGRAM

Curriculum/Schedule


Monday


8:00 AM Welcome/Registration

8:30 AM CIT Program Overview

9:00 AM Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness (#1)

9:30 AM

10:00 AM Schizophrenia (#2)

10:30 AM

11:00 AM Mood Disorders (#3)

11:30 AM

12:00 PM Lunch

12:30 PM

1:00 PM Personality Disorders (#4)

1:30 PM

2:00 PM Understanding and Preventing Suicide (#5)

2:30 PM

3:00 PM Child and Adolescent Intervention (#6)

3:30 PM

4:00 PM Treatments of Psychiatric Illnesses (#7)

4:30 PM

5:00 PM Class Discussion


Tuesday


8:00 AM Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder/Veteran Consumer Interviews (#8)

8:30 AM

9:00 AM

9:30 AM

10:00 AM Site Visit @ Local State Psychiatric Hospital (#9)

10:30 AM

11:00 AM

11:30 AM

12:00 PM (Note: Site visit will include a working lunch.)

12:30 PM

1:00 PM

1:30 PM

2:00 PM Site Visit @ Local Emergency Receiving Facility (#10)

2:30 PM

3:00 PM

3:30 PM

4:00 PM

4:30 PM

5:00 PM Class Discussion


Wednesday


8:00 AM Addictive Diseases (#11)

8:30 AM

9:00 AM Co-Occurring Disorders (#12)

9:30 AM

10:00 AM Developmental Disabilities (#13)

10:30 AM

11:00 AM Alzheimer's Disease (#14)

11:30 AM

12:00 PM Lunch

12:30 PM

1:00 PM De-Escalation Techniques Part 1 (#15)

1:30 PM

2:00 PM

2:30 PM

3:00 PM

3:30 PM

4:00 PM

4:30 PM

5:00 PM Class Discussion


Thursday


8:00 AM Consumer Perspectives (#16)

8:30 AM

9:00 AM Family Perspective (#17)

9:30 AM

10:00 AM De-Escalation Techniques Part 2 (#15)

10:30 AM

11:00 AM

11:30 AM

12:00 PM Lunch

12:30 PM

1:00 PM De-Escalation Techniques Part 2 (#15)

1:30 PM

2:00 PM Cultural Sensitivity (#18)

2:30 PM

3:00 PM Legal Issues and Mental Health Law (#19)

3:30 PM

4:00 PM

4:30 PM

5:00 PM Class Discussion


Friday


8:00 AM Mental Health/Community Resources (#20)

8:30 AM

9:00 AM De-Escalation Techniques Part 3 (#15)

9:30 AM

10:00 AM

10:30 AM

11:00 AM

11:30 AM

12:00 PM Lunch

12:30 PM

1:00 PM Review of CIT Principles

1:30 PM

2:00 PM POST Written Examination/Course Evaluation

2:30 PM

3:00 PM Graduation (Dress Attire/Uniform)

3:30 PM

4:00 PM

4:30 PM

5:00 PM Class Adjournment


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Caitlin Belforti: Psychiatric survivor, young adult leader, student

Caitlin is a survivor of maltreatment of Adelphi University's student counseling center. A young adult new to the movement, Caitlin hopes to continue to her involvement in the psychiatric survivor movement and bring more attention to an issue that is all too prevalent and all too ignored. Also an actress and a poet, Caitlin hopes to use the medium of performing arts to spread awareness, and to reach fellow survivors. She says, “Many thanks to the support I have received so far from the cool crowd that is MindFreedom!" Caitlin is speaking at the MindFreedom International peaceful protest of the American Psychiatric Association in Philadelphia, OccupyAPA 2012.
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