You are 16 times more likely to die during a police incident in America if you suffer from an untreated mental illness.
The alarming figure was revealed by the Treatment Advocacy Center (Tac), who also estimate that 7.9 million Americans are living with mental illness.
Executive director of the nonprofit organisation, John Snook, has suggested fatal results are often inevitable when police are deployed to deal with someone in the middle of a mental health crisis.
If you have these situations in communities where, when someone is really sick, the only call the family can make is to law enforcement; of course you’re going to see these sort of tragedies happen.”
People don’t stop getting sick just because you don’t have hospital beds for them, they have to go somewhere, so they go to the places that can’t say no.”
The Guardian reported independent findings that 25% of fatal police incidents involved a victim with mental illness, and Snook described increased risk to mentally ill citizens as “very conservative”.
Tac say that since 1950, 90% of beds in psychiatric hospitals have disappeared, leaving many people at risk. They recommend police data capture is improved so mental health issues are better documented, and that trained professionals are used to handle incidents involving the mentally ill.
But the issue remains live where mental illness is undiagnosed, and police have at best a suspicion.
Perhaps members of police units should receive specific training to recognise the symptoms of mental illness, then professionals can be called into attendance when mental illness is identified.