Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Walking a mile in someone's brain

…This thing could toss the show “Cops” off the air.

…According to a story by Gary Fields in the WSJ (Sept 27, 2006), cops in Phoenix are
wearing a sort of virtual reality headset that simulates inner voices and flickering hallucinations.

…The idea is to replicate what a schizophrenic or psychotic person would be experiencing when approached by a police officer.

…One officer ripped off the headset saying, “This thing could drive me crazy!”

…The voices whisper and murmur and say things you can just make out like “They’re after you,” then murmurs again.

…Many cities, Fields says, are trying to be more understanding of the mentally ill. Some cops take mental health professionals along. Dispatchers are getting training, too.

…In Mesa, Arizona, instead of clamping down on a situation by moving in fast and shouting, the police are more conversational if they see the person is disturbed.

…They also talk to people with a mental history and see which words they do not want to hear—nutcase was one.

…Preferred are: Have you eaten, did you take your medication, can we call your case worker.

…The police also go to halfway houses and check up on mentally ill people.

…Some cops don’t welcome this role, but budgets are limited in most cities.

…One homeless man (they also dislike that word) was hitting his leg rhythmically. The copy said, “He’s calibrating, trying to keep himself on an even keel.”

…He hadn’t done anything wrong, so the officers moved off, saying they would contact an agency for him.

…A little undersanding can go a long way. Most mentally ill people are not violent or dangerous, even though they report those voices may be saying things like “kill.”

…Maybe if gets to be like a radio stuck between two stations.

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