When my family members needed help, I was told my only option was to go to the police
While police are often the default first responders for mental heath and substance use disorder crises, they lack adequate training and preparation.
Over 30 years ago my brother agreed to get the help he needed if I found a place. I recall flipping through the yellow pages of the phone book because we did not have internet in 1984. I found a place but because he didn’t have insurance he could not be admitted unless I called the police on him and reported his illegal drug use. I couldn’t believe that was the “help” he was offered.
Years later, after my brother attempted suicide, he was in the hospital for some time. When he was better and ready to be discharged, the hospital discharged him to the state mental hospital where I assumed be would get the help he needed. As he went away in the ambulance with the cops in tow, I stood there confused as to why the police were even involved.
When we arrived at the facility to bring my brother his belongings, we were surprised to find he was in a ward like a jail. There were heavy metal doors and guards standing post. It was very frightening to say the least. Once again, I found myself questioning, “Why imprison someone with a mental health condition?”
Tragically, my brother never received the help he really needed for his substance use disorder and mental health disorder. He died from HIV/AIDS which he contracted from IV drug use. Due to the stigma surrounding his conditions, he died with shame for himself and his family.
Despite doing everything I could to ensure that my children didn’t follow a similar path, this disease once again reared its ugly head and took over my family. This time, as I scoured the internet trying to find help for my child, my pleas were met with the same response that “the police are the only ones that can help.” I couldn’t believe that years later I was still receiving the same “advice” to call the police and that my child was being subjected to the same stigma, shame and judgment that my brother had battled.
Watching my loved one get handcuffed because he is mentally ill was trauma all over again.