Coming Sept 1st: Recognition of Emotionally Disturbed Persons

On September 1st, CPKN will launch a free learning pilot of Recognition of Emotionally Disturbed Persons, an introductory e-learning course to help law enforcement personnel manage situations involving individuals in crisis.

Disturbing incidents involving mentally ill and emotionally disturbed persons (EDPs) have become increasingly common among the headlines of Canada's national media. However, these often tragic events represent only a fraction of the calls that law enforcement personnel respond to on a daily basis. Police and other first responders are regularly called upon to assess, manage, and diffuse situations involving individuals in crisis. These cases can be stressful, demanding, and among the most challenging situations that an officer deals with.

In cities, towns, and rural communities across the country, police and other first response personnel are called to situations involving family crisis, violence, substance abuse, unusual behaviour, or altered mental status. Every case has potential to reach a crisis point and risk the safety of the person involved, bystanders, and responders to the scene. And when an event results in injury or death, the policies and tactics used by police are often scrutinized by the public at large. As such, the ability of first responders to recognize emotionally disturbed individuals from those with criminal intent and apply appropriate response strategies is essential for de-escalating these types of situations.

"Over the last thirty years, deinstitutionalization, the policy that favours treating patients in the community rather than in psychiatric hospitals, has undoubtedly placed higher demands on first response services," says Dr. Bianca Lauria-Horner, an Assistant Professor at Dalhousie University's Department of Psychiatry, Project Director and a Subject Matter Expert for the Recognition of Emotionally Disturbed Persons course. "The number of contacts front line responders have with emotionally disturbed persons has increased substantially and there is a recognized need for training to help responders appropriately manage these situations. In a crisis event, proper training can mean the difference between a peaceful resolution and a tragedy."

Recognition of Emotionally Disturbed Persons reviews the various categories of EDPs and provides recommended response strategies and approaches to deal with individuals in crisis. As an introductory-level course, it is designed to build first responders' confidence in dealing with EDPs they encounter in the field and prevent unnecessary and unwarranted criminalization and victimization of mentally ill individuals.

This two hour online course is a component of a project initiated by Dalhousie University's Department of Psychiatry, the Nova Scotia Department of Justice, and the law enforcement community to develop a First Responder Training Program to help front line enforcement officers deal with crisis situations involving EDPs. Funded by the Police Sector Council, it is the second in a series of four e-learning courses being developed by CPKN for Canada's law enforcement community. It will be launched on the CPKN portal on September 1st and will be offered free of charge until December 31st. This introductory pilot period will be used to collect learner feedback on this course and attitudes toward e-learning which will be applied to future training initiatives.