A new study found that people diagnosed with mental illnesses are 16 times more likely to get killed during police encounters, compared to other civilians. Such rate from official and unofficial records means that about a quarter of people killed during police operations are severely mentally ill.
About eight million American adults suffer from impaired thinking because of serious mental conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Treatment Advocacy Center said that about 50 percent of these patients do not take their medicines or are not receiving due care.
With the prevalence of underlying mental illness in police killings, the most important and practical measure to decrease fatal shootings in the United States is to reduce the meetings of law enforcement officers and mental health patients.
Providing treatments has long been proven to decrease the role of mental illness in crimes which include fatal police encounters. The mental health illness system must then be restored so patients can undergo medication and proper care before they can do things that warrant police action.
"By dismantling the mental illness treatment system, we have turned mental health crisis from a medical issue into a police matter," said John Snook, study co-author and the executive director of the center.
In the full report entitled "Overlooked in the Undercounted: The Role of Mental Illness in Fatal Law Enforcement Encounters," the authors urge legislators to decrease the number of deaths and the numerous social consequences linked to police shootings. Such objective may be fulfilled via implementing public policies that will do the following:
• Revitalize mental health treatment system so patients' conditions do not deteriorate to the point of warranting a police response.
• Sponsor accurate federal tracking and reporting of all encounters that involve fatal law enforcement actions.
• Ensure that the role of mental illness in police encounters is determined and documented in government records.
Snook said the situation is more horrific, rather than surprising. He added that people with untreated mental illnesses are overexposed in all aspects of the criminal justice system and until reforms in public policies are made, tragic incidents will continue to happen.