Call the Police in a Mental Health Crisis as a Last Resort

February 25, 2017 Becky Oberg

We should call the police in a mental health crisis only as a last resort. I spent some time at a psychiatric hospital that used off-duty but uniformed Marion County Sheriff's Deputies as security. I thought this was a bad idea because many mental health consumers have had bad experiences with the police. Even though I have no criminal record, I have a mild fear of police officers, especially when in crisis, because I've seen confrontations end badly (Mental Health Crises and Calling the Police). For example, one night a patient refused to go to his room, and security was summoned. One deputy pulled out his can of pepper spray and yelled, "You want some of this?" That's one reason why calling the police during a mental health crisis should be a last resort, especially in hospitals.

In Mental Health Crises, Call the Police as a Last Resort

When in a mental health crisis, the police are often called but this mental health consumer believes the police should be called only as a last resort.I've said it before and I'll say it again--police officers and mental health consumers in crises are a bad combination. The officer is trained to deal with criminals and expects immediate compliance--the consumer may not be able to understand or follow the officer's instructions. This results in unnecessary violence instead of de-escalation (which many officers deride as hug-a-thug) or the least restrictive means being tried.

In this video, I talk about under what circumstances officers should respond and why de-escalation is crucial. Force should only be used if there is an imminent danger (Should All Psychiatric Patients Be Handcuffed When Transported?). Sadly, this is not often the case. But with more training and better support, the police can learn how to calmly handle mental health crises and avoid confrontation.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2017, February 25). Call the Police in a Mental Health Crisis as a Last Resort, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 20 from

Author: Becky Oberg

Marilyn Carothers
March, 1 2017 at 4:37 pm

Ive been mentally evaluated and have a friend everytime she is committed she runs away or gets violent. My first time in chains was out of procedure even though i wasnt violent just hurt to feel persecuted with no knowing my life after this life event. I do agree that police have no patience and over react to seek monthly tickets or arrest in order to be raised in acknowledgement. Thank you!

Leave a reply