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Time and Space: The Key to Successful Mental Health Crisis Calls in Law Enforcement

As law enforcement officers, responding to calls involving mental health crises can be some of the most challenging and complex situations we face. These calls require a delicate balance of compassion, communication, and effective de-escalation techniques to ensure a successful outcome. A critical strategy that we emphasis in our training that can greatly increase the chances of success in these situations is the intentional insertion of time and space. So let’s explore how giving time and space during mental health crisis calls can lead to better outcomes for all parties involved.

Time and space refer to the deliberate act of creating distance and allowing time for individuals in crisis to calm down and regain control of their emotions. This can be achieved by officers maintaining a safe physical distance, avoiding unnecessary movements or gestures, and using calming verbal cues to communicate with the individual. It is crucial to remember that individuals experiencing mental health crises are often in a heightened state of distress, and any perceived threat or pressure can escalate the situation further. At Trigon we believe the most important job of law enforcement when responding to mental health crisis calls, is first and foremost to not make it worse.

By giving time and space, officers allow individuals in crisis to feel less threatened and more in control of the situation. This can help reduce their anxiety, agitation, or aggression and create an environment conducive to effective communication and de-escalation. It also provides officers with the opportunity to assess the situation more thoroughly and sanitize the scene. Which will help them make informed decisions about the appropriate course of action.

In addition, time and space provide an opportunity for additional resources to arrive on the scene. Mental health professionals or crisis intervention teams may be called upon to provide specialized expertise and support. These professionals can assess

the situation, provide guidance, and offer alternative strategies to manage the crisis effectively. Time and space allow for coordination and collaboration between law enforcement and mental health professionals, leading to better outcomes for the individual in crisis.

Another factor supporting this approach is that individuals in mental health crisis may not have the cognitive capacity to process information or make rational decisions. Inserting time and space provides them with the opportunity to regain clarity and coherence, which can lead to more meaningful communication and cooperation. Rushing or pressuring the individual can escalate the situation and result in unintended consequences.

In some cases, time and space may also provide an opportunity for the individual to self-stabilize leading to voluntarily compliance with officer's instructions, reducing the need for use of force. It allows for a more peaceful resolution, preserves the dignity of the individual, and minimizes the risk of injuries or trauma.

Moreover, this aligns with the principles of community policing, which emphasizes building positive relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. When officers utilize this tactic, they demonstrate a commitment to understanding and addressing the underlying issues that contribute to mental health crises, rather than resorting to punitive measures. This helps to foster trust, respect, and cooperation between law enforcement and the community.

In closing, inserting time and space into mental health crisis calls is a critical strategy that can significantly increase successful outcomes for law enforcement officers. It allows individuals in crisis to regain control, officers to gather information, garner resources and make informed decisions. Hopefully inserting mental health professionals to provide specialized support. By prioritizing time and space, law enforcement agencies can demonstrate a compassionate and effective response to mental health crises, ultimately leading to safer and more positive outcomes for all parties involved. Let's strive to incorporate this strategy into our crisis intervention training and practices and prioritize the well-being of individuals experiencing mental health crises in our communities.


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