It’s a group of officers and dispatchers who receive special training and have special interest in helping meet the needs of mental health consumers.
Understanding that officer safety comes first, the “tactical approach” (tasers, hobbles, etc.) to dealing with unreasonable subjects is not always the best method of dealing with mentally ill folks.
Plus a good CIT dispatcher can smooth the way for officers or even eliminate the need for officer response. In my agency we feel lucky to have been given the training but there is no additional pay for being a member of the team. This means that the folks active in the team are dedicated to spending their own extra time with these folks.
It’s just good customer service too. Since most folks will either have a mental crisis in their lives or have a close friend or family member have mental issues, it makes sense that we get training in how to best deal with folks in crisis.
Also, no one particularly wants to shoot and kill a mentally ill subject. It looks bad and it’s a lot of stress for the officer doing the shooting.
Anyway, last week I taught a 5 hour class on the basics of assisting mental health consumers to our new dispatch academy. One of the areas I researched in advance was “self-injury,” “self-harm,” or “cutting.”
The CIT leader happened to see my cutting section (complete with a multimedia presentation) and offered (flattered me into) giving a longer lecture about cutting at the advanced CIT training this summer. Wahoo!
Oh wait, there’s all the work getting ready.
Cutting fascinates me more than ever now that I've done a lot of reading on the subject. This is a huge deal.
While not a diagnosis in itself, cutting can be indicative of lots of mental problems: borderline personality disorder, depression, etc. And all the cool kids are doing it.
Cutting isn’t about suicide; it’s about coping.
Some of us deal with their daily stresses or the stresses of adolescence, grief, abuse, mental illness, etc., by drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, taking drugs, over-eating, or (I’ve only heard) exercise.
Others cope by cutting, burning, pulling hair, biting, and otherwise causing themselves harm. It’s like a pressure release. Quotes from cutters include:
“… It gives me a sense of control. I get to be in charge of how much I bleed and how much pain I feel. Sometimes I feel it’s the only thing in my life I have control over…”
Today I looked at, this is not an exaggeration, about 6000 pictures of self-inflicted wounds. It was horrible. I looked at the photos the same way my father watches the Operation Channel: wincing but unable to look away. I paged through these photos for hours looking for ones that show representative injuries.
I have about 50 photos which show “great” injuries, ones that are not decorative or suicide attempts or caused for sexual gratification. There's a lot of crazy bloody ugly stuff out there.
I wonder how the crimes against children detectives do it, looking at abuse victim's pictures all day long. I guess they get the satisfaction of putting the bad guys in jail.
You don't put someone who cuts in jail. You often don't put them in a hospital. If the injuries are not life threatening and they pose no danger to others, cutters have the same rights as you and I. They don't put smokers in jail. They don't put alcoholics in jail. They don't put fat people in jail (thank goodness!).
I'm thankful that for all the little problems I have, including a little "mentally ill lite," cutting is not an obsession/compulsion/addiction I have. I have nothing but sympathy for those who cut.
I wish them the environment and the support where they can stop harming themselves, even if it's a sort of release of tension to them. As a CIT dispatcher I can at least understand and teach my fellow CIT members to not judge the consumers with numerous scars and instead provide them whatever service we are there to provide with as little additional stress as possible.
Anyone out there with cutting stories? Anything you want me to share with my crew this summer?