Mental Illness Training: A Practical Approach

Certified Mental Health Training for Police Officers, Sheriffs and Deputies

Law enforcement officers encounter individuals from all walks of life, sometimes all within a single day. Officers are instructed to keep diversity in mind, which includes physical and mental diversity. However, physical diversity is easier to quickly point out—mental diversities are more difficult, which is why mental health training for police officers is essential to add to your department’s curriculum.

While mental health is becoming increasingly more discussed, how much do you actually know about it? It may be surprising to discover that mental health includes emotional, psychological and social well-being, each of which heavily affect how people think, feel and act. As such, it also determines how people handle stress, relate to others and make choices—something officers must be aware of when interacting with or convincing a subject to comply.

A critical lesson to teach, yet one that is not heavily taught nationwide. As a mental illness training instructor, it is your responsibility to teach your officers to be aware of your community’s needs. This includes teaching officers how to recognize the signs of various mental illnesses via curated mental health training for police officers and knowing how to best interact with the subject for the best, safest outcome for all.

Science-Based Mental Illness Training for Police Forces

Research-Driven Curriculum on Multiple Mental Illnesses

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five United States adults have a mental illness. While this ranges from mild to moderate to severe, the fact remains: communities everywhere have members with mental illnesses and officers need to know how to connect with them.

To help prepare and educate officers, VirTra created “Mental Illness Training: A Practical Approach”. This nationally-certified training is designed to be used with VirTra’s science-based simulators for the best learning. With this curriculum, instructors receive 15 training hours through ten lessons, corresponding slide presentations, class evaluation forms, tests, realistic video scenarios and more. The topics covered in this curriculum are:

• The Role of Mental Health
• Crisis De-Escalation
• Depression
• Suicide
• Anxiety
• Trauma & PTSD
• Schizophrenia
• Neurocognitive Disorders
• Traumatic Brain Injury
• Substance Abuse

How “Mental Illness Training” works is simple: after engaging in classroom instruction, officers can practice their new-found skills in VirTra’s realistic simulator. VirTra offers multiple scenarios that allow officers to put into practice what they have learned about each mental illness—helping instructors oversee skill development and minimize training scars from the get-go.

A Sneak Peek into Mental Illness Training Curriculum

See How Scenarios Work and Branch During Mental Health Training for Police Officers

One of the many effective VirTra mental illness scenarios is featured below. How it works is simple: trainees begin by standing in front of the simulator. Then, the instructor fires up the scenario, which begins with a dispatch call outlining the basics of the call. From there, the real training begins! The scenario opens up to the location and shows the subject behaving erratically. It is soon discovered that the subject has not taken his medications and it is up to the officer to de-escalate and gain control of the situation.

Depending on the officer’s actions, the instructor can choose for the scenario to branch—for example, having the subject follow commands or continue to act unpredictably. Whatever your agency’s protocol is for situations like this, each scenario is built with dozens of branching options, allowing you to train the way your protocol requires.

VirTra’s mental health training for police officers is a perfect method of teaching in a safe environment while showing trainees how to react properly to mental illnesses. Training after this manner also shows officers the consequence of their actions; if the officer de-escalates, the situation can be diffused. But if the officer reacts improperly, they can watch as the subject responds accordingly—thus receiving better, fuller training.

Why This Curriculum Saves Lives

Real-World Examples to Prepare Future Officers

Officers everywhere remember the 2020 story of Daniel Prude. Prude’s brother called officers to help, as Prude was running naked through the streets experiencing a mental health crisis. The officers, not realizing his state of mind, pinned him to the pavement while he was naked and handcuffed, which ultimately resulted in his death.

While this was a complicated case with many factors and excessive use of force, a big problem was the officers not recognizing the signs of mental illness and reacting accordingly. Recognizing the state Prude was in and knowing the best way to communicate and de-escalate given his condition could have resulted in a different outcome. Similar events have inspired VirTra’s mental health training for police officers to ensure officers are prepared for any and all events in the field.

Nationally-Certified Officer Curriculum

Certified Curriculum Ensures Best Training and Skill Transfer

Curriculum can be the difference between a good officer and a great officer. To ease the instructor’s workload while simultaneously providing the best training materials, VirTra went through the effort of having our Mental Illness Training: A Practical Approach curriculum nationally-certified through IADLEST. IADLEST’s National Certification Program sets the POST training standard for 36+ states and works to improve training nationwide.

By having our mental health training for police officers curriculum both POST approved and nationally-certified, departments automatically receive training hours when the curriculum is taught. Whether this curriculum is used to help veterans brush up on their skills or teach trainees the foundation, this V-VICTA™ curriculum effectively prepares law enforcement members for potentially dangerous traffic stops.

V-VICTA—VirTra’s Virtual Interactive Coursework Training Academy—oversees all nationally-certified curriculum, including Mental Illness Training: A Practical Approach. Other certified curricula within the V-VICTA program include: Human Factors in Use of Force Encounters, De-Escalation, High Risk Vehicle Stop, and more. All V-VICTA curriculum is free with every law enforcement simulator, saving departments ample man-hours and thousands of dollars.

To learn more about Mental Illness Training: A Practical Approach and other V-VICTA curriculum, contact a VirTra specialist.