Policing the Mentally Ill, Part 2

7 Mar

On March 4th, the Portland Police killed a veteran with PTSD. It was the second fatal shooting by the police this year. His name was Santiago Cisneros. He was thirty-two years old and had served in Iraq from 2002 to 2005.  In an interview with a Seattle TV station in 2009, Santiago said, “I fought a war over there in Iraq. I didn’t know I was going to have to fight a war back here in the United States within myself” and “it took awhile to realize I was dealing with PTSD because I didn’t know what post-traumatic stress disorder was.” I don’t know what precipitated his confrontation with the police. All the Oregonian reported was that he shot at the officers first, and they returned fire. He’d been speaking to his mother on his cellphone directly before the police arrived. She was still on the line when the shooting started.

http://www.kgw.com/news/local/Armed-man-killed-by-Portland-police-was-Iraq-vet-195543251.html

The first man killed by the Portland PD this year was named Merle Hatch. His mother said he had a terrible drug habit and that neither she nor his father had seen in him in more than ten years. The police shot him a few weeks ago in the parking lot of the hospital where I attend my bipolar recovery group meetings.

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2013/02/federal_fugitive_merle_hatch_h.html

I was at the hospital roughly two hours before Merle died. I stood in that parking lot chatting with fellow members of the recovery group as we wandered out to our cars. It’s a strange and sobering juxtaposition.

In both cases, the police had no other option. Merle threatened to shoot them with what turned out to be a black phone receiver. He taunted them and told them he was going to kill them. The term for it is “suicide by cop.” Santiago started shooting when he saw the police. It’s possible that he also chose that route.

The parallels between Santiago’s mother and Jay Swift’s mother are heartbreaking. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain that woman is feeling. I don’t want to imagine how many parents can empathize with her suffering. BTW, here’s an account of the shooting Jay’s mother posted in response to the media coverage of her son’s death:

http://samanthabeaudette.com/jasonswift/

In a previous post about this subject, I called out the police for their use of excessive force and tendency to shoot first and ask questions later when they respond to a call involving a person with mental health issues. It’s a serious problem and it’s the responsibility of law enforcement to address it. But I cannot deny the fact that this wouldn’t be happening nearly as often if there were adequate resources and treatment for people who have mental illness, particularly when those people are in crisis.

For a good overview of the problem, check out this article from the Charlotte Observer:

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/03/09/3904455/when-a-mental-health-emergency.html

I wish I could drum up some optimism about this, but quite frankly I can’t. Cut after cut has been made to programs that would avert these kinds of tragedies. Our economy might be in for another recession and the sequester is set to decimate these programs even more. I do know that I see the imperative now more than ever to become an advocate and an activist. We are facing a spike in fear and stigma because of last year’s mass shooting in Newtown CT and the fear-mongering groups like the NRA engage in because they want people to blame us instead of guns. Resources for treatment and management grow scarcer with each financial crisis, and given the current state of our federal government I’m not holding my breath for things to improve on that front any time soon.

But we do have advocacy groups, and the Internet grants us access to information and means to mobilize. We must educate ourselves and others. We must make our voices heard in our communities and seats of government. And we must do it now, not only for ourselves but for our family members who also suffer from mental illness and the loved ones whose lives are ruined because a person they love can’t get the help they need. We must do it for the people with mental illness and the police who die when this broken system of ours engenders yet another avoidable crisis. This is literally a life-or-death issue.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

healing from the freeze

trauma, dissociation and embodiment

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and adventurers.

'Merica Magazine

For the Unlikely Patriot.....

recovery network: Toronto

people can and do recover from what is sometimes called "mental illness"

suzannerbanks

scent . intention . consciousness . essential oils

we hunted the mammoth

the new misogyny, tracked and mocked

Laura K. Kerr, PhD

Writer • Scholar • Speaker

The Belle Jar

"Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences." - Sylvia Plath

DIVISION DESIGN INITIATIVE

Collaborating to Refine our Design Vision for a Growing Division

Birth of a New Brain

A Writer Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder (Bipolar, Peripartum Onset)

Queer Guess Code

Unraveling Sex and Gender in Pop Culture

Oregon Fall Foliage

Let us help you find the best color throughout Oregon

The Daily Advocate By Painspeaks

Advocacy is FREE and its never-ending ripples spread awareness for all worthy causes!

Musings of a Bipolar Mama

Your not-so-average ramblings of a bipolar mama

Writing for Recovery

Write, speak, heal, live. Say the unsayable.

Kate McKinnon

explorer | ingenieur

Shapely Prose

2007-2010

The Rhubosphere

Ro Smith's writing blog and review site

WOMEN. HEALING. VIOLENCE.

A curation project

%d bloggers like this: