What Does a Veteran’s Crisis Situation Look Like?
Imagine this: A combat Veteran, with diagnosed or un-diagnosed conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress, Anxiety, or Traumatic Brain Injury. His only source of income is the education stipend he receives from the GI Bill. He can’t hold a job because he doesn’t sleep at night, and when he does, it is only because of the alcohol he uses to self-medicate. His girlfriend, the only person with whom he shares anything, cannot accept the pain of seeing her loved one so changed and in so much pain.
She leaves. She takes the dog. The only sources of comfort he recognizes are gone.
Without the safety net, he falls into despair. His family – in an effort to help – continue to pressure him for a job, but today is the wrong day to pester him with how he intends to move on with his life. He says to himself, “I don’t know why I can’t move on – I JUST CAN’T.”
He feels disappointed. He feels ashamed. He feels alone.
When he can’t take anymore, he starts to lash out. He doesn’t understand why the pain exists, he only knows it hurts too much. Nobody understands. He releases some of his emotion. He breaks things. Shouting ensues. The neighbors, both annoyed and frightened, have no recourse but to call the police. The call is for domestic disturbance, and the caller informs the police that there are weapons on the premises.
Given this information, law enforcement arrives in force, potentially wearing protective armor. What choice do they have? The Veteran – angry, afraid, and desperate – looks outside and sees the police positioning themselves around him.
What happens next?
Does this situation escalate into a violent confrontation?
Veteran Crisis Response Training Program
Captain Blair Myhand, Police Chief of the Apex Police Department in North Carolina, doesn’t think so. A retired Army First Sergeant and combat Veteran himself, Captain Myhand sought to train police officers to use the most effective weapon they possess in these crisis situations: their shared experiences and bond as Veterans. By making a personal connection with Veterans, by listening to improve understanding, and by committing to stay connected with the Veteran to ensure they receive the support they need, we can turn crisis situations into growth opportunities. We can identify the source of the problem and connect Veterans to the services they need. In doing so, we mitigate the risk of violent confrontation. We reduce the chances of repeat police interventions. Most importantly, we safeguard the lives of our police officers and the Veteran members of their communities.
The Veterans Crisis Response Program is a component of the Crisis Intervention Training but is specific for those police officers with a record of military service. Together with Captain Myhand, Alliance Behavioral Health mobilizes the resources and expertise to instruct officers on issues such as PTS, TBI, and suicide. The program introduces police officers to multitude of local resources to connect the Veteran to the help they need. Officers partake in two days of training including a half day of role player scenarios based on actual crisis response scenarios. The objectives of this program are to educate officers on the mental health aspects of service related conditions, to inform the officers on a variety of treatment and resource options, and to expose the officers to realistic, role play scenarios with coaching and feedback.
At the end of the training, we provide police officers with crisis contact cards to connect Veterans and their families to comprehensive case management services through Stop Soldier Suicide . In addition to referring at risk Veterans for our service, these cards provide crisis intervention information for the Veteran and their family. Through this program, we connect our case management service to these Veterans, and we can transform a potentially deadly situation into an opportunity for healing, hope, and empowerment.
This program has gained traction in North Carolina, and next month, Captain Myhand will advocate for this program at the Crisis Intervention Team International Conference in Chicago. Later this year, during suicide awareness month in September, Stop Soldier Suicide hopes to partner with Captain Myhand and Alliance Behavioral Health in a national train-the-trainer event in Raleigh to expand this program nationally. We share in the vision to protect and serve our communities without unnecessarily criminalizing those behaviors as a result of behavioral health conditions from military service.
How does your community prepare police officers to respond to a Veteran crisis scenario? Does your local law enforcement have a training program to educate Crisis Intervention Teams about Veteran issues?This program has already succeeded in saving lives for the Apex community, and it can do the same for your community as well. We should always seek peaceful resolutions to crisis situations that protect the lives of our law enforcement officer and our citizens. If you want to learn more about this program and how you can start implementing a similar program in your community, please send us an email inquiry at VeteranCrisisProgram@stopsoldiersuicide.org. We can provide you crisis contact cards and help connect you with Captain Myhand for the training program.
The scenario at the introduction of this article was based on an actual intervention. It could have gone violent. It could have resulted in either injury or death. It didn’t. This scenario resulted in a Veteran getting connected to the help he needed. That is the best outcome. Because of this program, officers resolved this crisis peacefully. Veteran Lives Matter, and this innovation connects our heroes to the help they need.