Of all Stand Up To Stigma peer education programs, “Peer & Police Safety” holds the most significance in the lives of peers, those who love us, and the police sworn to protect us.
It is not a pretty sight being called to a scene where a peer is experiencing the overwhelming symptoms of a severe mental health crisis. From work with the Albuquerque Police Department on their Crisis Intervention Team training, we peers have learned that we can be downright scary, even though we are in no way violent or dangerous.
The way we can ensure peer and police safety is, once again, through mutual understanding. Peers learn that law enforcement is there to help us when we are in crisis. And police (and other first-responders) learn peers are not their symptoms. We are not always in crisis, and they are only called to help us when we are having difficulty making sound choices for ourselves.
How is this accomplished? Stand Up To Stigma takes a two-fold approach, similar to what SUTS CEO Steve Bringe helped APD develop for their CIT program. We have chosen and trained peers to share their experiences with law enforcement, both “good” and “bad”, and to let officers know what it’s like when we are in crisis and law enforcement is involved.
We then share with law enforcement what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and what can use improvement, all in hopes that a crisis situation can be de-escalated to where a peer is taken to much needed mental health services and not incarceration.
This is not a program intended for peers to have a platform to tell law enforcement how badly they’re messing up or how badly peers are treated. This serves no purpose. The purpose of “Peer & Police Safety” is so all parties involved (including families and friends) can collaborate towards a positive, successful outcome in crisis situations.
One common comment we receive from law enforcement is because they only see us at our worst, being able to talk to our peer presenters “puts a human face” on peers.
Stand Up To Stigma works towards solutions for the issues and concerns we face, as a community.