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Feb 26, 2016 6:26 PM

Manchester Police train to better identify and defuse calls involving mental illness

MANCHESTER - All too often there are stories in the news of police encounters going very wrong, but there's the other side to law enforcement that typically doesn't garner the spotlight.

Professor of Psychology Tom Kucharski said, "Everyday thousands of interactions between mentally ill people and police occur and the mass majority of them occur in very positive and good outcomes."

A three day course with the Manchester Police Department aims to ensure even more of those good outcomes with cases involving the mentally ill.

Kucharski, from New York, is training Manchester Police to improve their communication and negotiation skills to work with people with a variety of mental disorders including schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and a variety of personality disorders.

One session focuses on suicide threats and role playing is key.

Trained actors play the people experiencing a mental breakdown, while police get to use their newly acquired skills in mock scenarios that mirror real life.

Patricia Carty of the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester said, "This collaboration is really important in reducing stigma with mental illness, and also creating a safe environment for our client and the police because both people can get hurt in these situations."

Manchester Assistant Police Chief Carlo Capano said, "It is a vast majority of our calls, people dealing with mental health issues."

Capano says this critical incident training is crucial for the Manchester Police force.

"We're not here to arrest our way out of any type of situation," said Capano. "Clearly our job is enforcement; however, if we can identify issues and get people the proper treatment and help that they need, that's ultimately our goal."

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