People use terms like “psychopath” or “manic” or “depressed” to describe others – often forgetting that these are actually mental health terms with real definitions and diagnoses. But how do you know when your co-worker is struggling, versus just in a temporary funk? How do you know if your boss is a narcissist, or if they’re just being a little mean-spirited that day? How do you tell which characteristics and behaviors are part of someone’s personality — or if something more serious is lurking underneath?
- recognize some basic signs and symptoms,
- discuss the best way to interact with an individual who is displaying those signs, and
- share some key techniques that could make the difference between escalation and a peaceful outcome.
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): Your webinar is specifically about identifying quickly a mental health disorder or illness and knowing the basics of interacting with someone struggling with mental health issues. How might this be beneficial?
Those in emergency response, public safety, or the justice system interact with a wide variety of individuals. Even if no one ever had a mental illness or a disorder, there are a lot of different personalities to try to manage on a daily basis. If you, then, add in the factor that 1 in 5 adults in America experience a mental illness, you have an enormous amount of variables with who you may be interacting. Being able to recognize signs of a particular mental health issue, and knowing how to respond to that particular issue, could help de-escalate a situation much more quickly than responding in a way that could even worsen the situation.
Understanding the signs and outward appearance of certain mental health issues
will help anyone in the law enforcement, emergency response, or justice areas
better understand the different individuals they encounter regularly.
JCH: Knowing that you’re not speaking to mental health professionals, what might be the most important things to remember when considering whether or not someone is experiencing a mental health issue, or could just be someone who makes bad decisions or is having a really bad day?
Having the knowledge of what certain common mental health issues look like can help you discern what type of help they may need. If it’s someone who is just determined to make bad choices and do bad things, you’ll handle that person differently than someone who has a mental illness that is not within their control in that moment. You can understand from their viewpoint what they’re experiencing, and work to help them through that episode, and you’ll have a much more positive outcome.
JCH: You’ve presented a number of times about mental health and mental health challenges here at Justice Clearinghouse. The work that you do is important, but must be challenging at times. What drew you to this work and helping those in the justice profession? What keeps you motivated or inspired to keep doing this work?
The challenge comes mostly from caring about people, and wanting to help, and sometimes not being able to reach enough people or make enough of a difference. Teaching mental health to this audience helps me be a source of support and encouragement to those who are also trying very hard to help, and to make a difference. Every once in a while I’ll get an email or a note from someone explaining how something I said, or taught, made a difference to them, and that’s all it takes to keep me going and doing this work for the benefit of these heroes.
Teaching mental health to this audience
helps me be a source of support and encouragement to those who are also trying very hard to help,
and to make a difference.
JCH: A large number of our readers and subscribers are in law enforcement, but we have representation from all parts of the justice arena. Can you share some specifics of what different types of justice professionals or first responders will gain by attending your webinar? What skills or new knowledge will they gain that they can immediately use the next day on the job?
Actually, I think anyone, in any role or position, who deals with different people every day, can benefit from this webinar. Just understanding other people, and knowing that not everyone is just like ourselves, is helpful. Understanding the signs and outward appearance of certain mental health issues will help anyone in the law enforcement, emergency response, or justice areas better understand the different individuals they encounter regularly. It’s not going to be a webinar teaching anyone how to diagnose a mental illness or disorder, but instead to provide insight into what others are experiencing that makes them act in a certain way.