43.8 million people experience mental illness each year. That’s 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. 
Up to 15% of the annual calls made to the police involve an individual who is struggling with mental illness.
Policing the mentally ill is a big challenge and needs specialized training. Law enforcement agencies are changing their training methods to police the mentally ill more effectively. There is a growing demand for officers who have preliminary training or a background in psychology, along with their criminal justice degrees.
It is extremely important that police officers understand the differences between various mental health issues to better serve their communities. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that about 10 million people struggle with severe mental illness while 16 million have had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
If they are implicated in criminal activity, show violent or erratic behavior, the methods used to handle them would vary. Police officers need to understand how to engage with such individuals to avoid misconstrued actions that might lead to false arrests or unnecessary violence.
Mental Health and Law Enforcement: Current Trends
Police departments across the country are working to boost mental health awareness. One popular program adopted by most to train officers is the Crisis Intervention Training (CIT.) This 40-hour program offers comprehensive training on how to work with those with mental illness. Almost all states use some form of the training.
Other successful training programs include the partnership between the Behavioral Health System Baltimore and the local police department. The training session incorporates various aspects of mental health management into the basic training of new officers.
The trainings focus on fundamental de-escalation techniques. Officers learn how to take a step back and diffuse a volatile situation. It also gives them an opportunity to assess a person’s mental state.
It also looks at the police department’s use-of-force policies in hopes of reducing violence against those with mental health issues. It is essential that officers learn how to communicate with mentally ill individuals so that they can contain a situation instead of exacerbating it.
Policing and Mental Health: The Right Training Teaches Compassion
It is encouraging to see police departments incorporating mental health education in their police training programs. But if one could build these skills right from the undergraduate level, the results could be phenomenal. Central Christian College of Kansas (CCCK) offers a 100% online criminal justice degree that really stands out in this regard.
The program approaches this issue with compassion instead of just hard facts. Students not only learn the key principles for an effective criminal justice career but are also encouraged to assimilate their beliefs, ethics, and morals in their approach.
The Christian faith-centered curriculum aims to cultivate in students the desire to do the most good in their chosen professional and societal roles. It encourages a holistic and human-centered approach where future officers are taught to consider all suspects as people instead of perpetrators. Imbibing this person-centered approach early on in one’s professional education can help create outstanding future officers.
How CCCK’s Online Criminal Justice Degree Can Make a Difference in Your Career?
Central Christian College of Kansas (CCCK) believes in the value of personal growth alongside academic development. The online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice trains students to fight crime while staying connected to the local community they serve and protect.
They learn policing best practices and policies for crime prevention as well as for interacting with individuals experiencing mental health issues. Mental health in police officers is also addressed, which creates a greater sense of camaraderie, support, and teamwork.
The online criminal justice associate's and bachelor’s degree programs at CCCK were designed by by expert instructors with real-world policing experience. Subject matter experts help prepare its graduates for policing situations where mental health might be an issue. It is a step in the right direction for students who want to jumpstart or boost their law enforcement careers.