Mental Illness and the CJS

Just a quick note, my blog is primarily based on personal views and experience, sometimes referring to research and some background information, with the aim of helping anyone who may be suffering, or know of anyone suffering from a mental health illness. I would welcome any advice and feedback on my blogs, or your personal thoughts on the topic. 


This is just a short post based on mental illness and the criminal justice system – does training of those within the criminal justice system take into account those with mental illnesses? This is becoming an extremely controversial topic lately.


My focus on this post will be with regards to the latest shooting of an unarmed man, who was suffering from a mental breakdown. Alfred Olango, a 38-year-old unarmed black man who was suffering from a mental breakdown, was shot after police suspected him of being armed. Police were called out to the neighbourhood following a phone call from the victim’s sister, who stated that her brother was mentally unwell, and she required help as he was ‘not acting like himself’, and was walking into traffic.


The most alarming thing is that this isn’t an isolated incident. In the past few years, such incidents have become all too common. I don’t have specific statistics but it’s clear to see that this is the case. The rate of individuals with mental illnesses has significantly increased in the past few years, and this calls for the need to increase mental health related training within the criminal justice system (and the need for increased mental health awareness in general also).


Another man clearly suffering from a mental breakdown was killed using police force. Joseph Mann, a 51-year-old homeless black man with a history of mental illness was shot 14 times, and a police officer intentionally tried to hit him with the patrol car, saying ‘Fuck this guy, I’m going to hit him’. (I have included a video link below, with very distressing scenes).


This is sadly becoming a regular part of the daily news – seeing individuals with a mental illness becoming victims of police shootings. Whilst I understand that the police are responsible for protecting the public; and I very much commend them for the hard work that they do; the number of those with a mental illness being killed is significantly rising.


So, this brings into question police training. Should police be better trained to deal with situations involving individuals with a mental illness? Surely this would be the most logical plan of action. Other options could involve having a trained professional accompany each police visit?


There are many reasons that someone with a mental illness may be acting ‘out of character’ or ‘strange’, and instead of using deadly force, this calls for the need to bring in professionally trained individuals, who are better equipped to deal with an individual suffering from a mental breakdown. Approaching someone with a mental illness can be a difficult task in itself, and requires patience, understanding, and a calm but firm approach. There are many other characteristics and skills needed to deal with an individual suffering from a mental illness, but my point is that these skills should be more widely incorporated into the training of those within the criminal justice system, particularly for the police who have initial contact with these individuals.


My aim for this post was to discuss the importance and need for training related to mental illness (health) within the criminal justice system. I have included some links to some of the recent news articles that relate to this post.

The need to increase mental health awareness is becoming more and more important. The number of individuals with a mental illness is rapidly increasing, and we all need to be a part of a solution to this crisis. Thank you for reading.


One thought on “Mental Illness and the CJS

  1. Thank you. This is an important post, and one that strikes close to my heart.

    The mentally ill son of a friend and colleague was murdered by the police: shot twice in the back at point blank range “in self defense” as several officers held his arms and legs while he was tazed, face down. As inadequate as mental health education for police officers IS, only two of the officers who burst through like a swat team had ANY mental health training.

    Would they send someone with no specialized training to navigate a hostage situation? The mentally ill are NOT criminals and do not deserve to be treated as if they are. Mental Health Awareness training needs to be MANDATORY for *all* police officers, emergency room personnel and firemen.

    Search for: “When “Breaking News” becomes Personal” in the search box at the top right of my blog for the story as it broke.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

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