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Economic stress contributing factor in 55% jump of mental health calls for cops

A 55% uptick in mental health calls seen; factors include stressful economic conditions and release of non-violent offenders who may have psychological problems, SANDAG report states.
Carla Miles

"People with mental problems are our neighbors. .... If we ignore their cries for help, we will be continuing to participate in the anguish from which those cries for help come. A problem of this magnitude will not go away. Because it will not go away, and because of our spiritual commitments, we are compelled to take action." (Rosalynn Carter)

Local San Diego County police officers and sheriff's deputies responded to 22,315 incidents of mental-health-related calls in 2013, which is an unsettling increase of 55 percent from 2008, according to a report just released by the San Diego Association of Governments.

SANDAG studied the four largest law enforcement agencies in the county -- San Diego police, Chula Vista police, Oceanside police and the county Sheriff's Department, according to Itica Milanes of SanDiego10news. She further reports this warning:

"... some police officers told 10News it's only going to get worse."

69 mental health calls per day

Another article on the report, this one from Andie Adams of NBCsandiego.com states:

"On average, local law enforcement agencies dealt with 69 mental health calls per day in 2013."

The SANDAG researchers cited "stressful economic conditions, limited resources from the station and the expectation that officers should respond to mental health crises," according to the story. Further, SANDAG officials want "... comprehensive regional strategies to deal with these calls, which cost the county time, money and public safety risks."

The fact that those increasing mental health calls for help have been using up more law enforcement resources, was mentioned also in an online article from KPBS.

Suicide: rate for older adults 50% higher than national rate as a whole

Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder, described as a coodinator of Mental Health Ministries on MentalHealthMinistries.net, writes that one life is lost to suicide "every 15.8 minutes." She adds:

"The suicide rate for older adults is 50% higher than the national rate as a whole."

Two other points Rev. Gregg-Schroeder made:

  • 1 out of 5 community hospital stays involves a primary or secondary diagnosis of mental illness
  • Approximately 20-25% of jail/prison inmates and youth involved with juvenile justice live with a serious mental illness

Last week in Vista, a San Diego Sheriff officer lead a group of local Leadership Academy participants through the Vista Detention Center on Melrose. The tour was informative, but ultimately very, very depressing. While officers can be trained for dealing with a multitude of scenarios and contacts, they have no control over some societal choices: what voters want, what government officials decide or lawmakers order for California residents facing poor economic conditions, mental health issues, etc.

City Manager Patrick Johnson recently stated that, in looking at crime statistics, there has been an increase in local crimes such as breaking windows in cars and petty thefts.