Increasing Positive Interactions with Mentally Ill Individuals

 In Topics of Interest

Nearly 1 in 5 adults live with a mental illness in the United States. Whether a person is suffering from depression or schizophrenia, it is imperative that law enforcement recognize the symptoms and react in a safe, productive manner. Officers must know how to properly recognize and interact with every member of their community, no matter their differences.

Fortunately, VirTra makes teaching officers these skills easy and effective through our “Mental Illness Training: A Practical Approach” curriculum. This course is 15 hours of ready-to-go, nationally-certified training material that consists of 10 lessons and associated testing materials. Through this curriculum, officers learn to recognize a variety of mental illness symptoms—including depression, suicide, anxiety, trauma, PTSD and schizophrenia—and communicate and engage in the proper techniques for the situation. The entire list of mental illnesses covered in this curriculum can be found here.

VirTra’s mental illness curriculum includes all the necessary training tools, including: training manuals, slide presentations, pre- and post-tests, class rosters, evaluation forms and more. This allows instructors to start teaching about mental illness in the classroom, creating a foundation that trainees will build on in the simulator.

The way VirTra’s curriculum is set up, trainees receive their instruction in a classroom setting before trying out their new skills in a training simulator. VirTra provides relevant scenarios—in this case, scenarios featuring subjects with a variety of mental illnesses—that trainees must talk to, try to de-escalate and provide the necessary help.

However, training doesn’t stop with a simple scenario. Instead, VirTra’s scenarios branch, or have multiple endings. If an officer is mistaking a mental illness for criminal behaviors or otherwise improperly engaging in the situation, the instructor can cause the scenario to escalate accordingly. But if an officer is engaging in the correct tactics, the instructor can choose for the scenario to de-escalate and for the subject to comply.

The training value is huge, as officers can understand exactly how a situation would play out in the field. If an officer makes a mistake, they can learn where the misstep occurred and practice the same scenario again in a safe environment.

This is no longer “good to know” or simply important information. The safety of our officers and communities rely on it. Interested in watching how these training scenarios play out? Readers can see our scenarios in-action here or on our YouTube channel.


CLICK HERE to learn more about VirTra

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