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Training video helps police work with mentally ill youth

December 10, 2008

The movie Community Policing: Effective Response to Youth with Mental Illness might not win any Oscars in February, but it did have a red carpet premiere at a theater in Boise, Idaho, in September.

The 30-minute video, produced with federal funding by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, was created to help police officers and other first responders handle situations involving children and teens with mental illness, enhancing the safety of everyone involved.

Rather than providing tactical advice, the new video focuses on interpersonal skills.

“With children you have to be gentler, deescalate the situation, and work with the parents whenever possible,” says Stacie Golden, a training specialist for the department involved in the film’s production. “The video focuses on patience and establishing trust.”

A scene from Community Policing: Effective Response to Youth with Mental Illness.

Four 7-minute scenarios are included, and the trainer can pause after each so viewers can discuss how the situation was handled. One involves a suicidal boy who blames himself for his brother’s injuries from a car crash. In another, an officer talks to a teenage girl with bipolar disorder and her parents as she is taken to a hospital.

Golden says feedback on the scripts from the Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training Academy as well as from youth focus groups made the scenarios more realistic.

She plans to recruit pairs of mental health specialists and retired police officers in each region of the state to deliver a three-hour training session that includes the video.

Word of Community Policing has spread beyond Idaho. “I just sent a copy to someone in Guam,” Golden explains.

The DVD and a CD with the training curriculum are available for $10. For more details contact Golden at or (208) 334-0628.

David Raths is a freelance writer.

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