Monday, May 25, 2009

Officers hearing voices in their heads: police learn what it’s like to be mentally ill

Journal Times, 11 May 2009

Full article here

“Turn your voices on,” Racine Police Officer Chris Cronin told two fellow officers at a special police training last week.She was referring to MP3 players that simulated the experience of hearing voices, which is a symptom of schizophrenia.It was part of Racine County’s first weeklong Crisis Intervention Team training, which is training for a core group of officers from across the county to recognize people with mental illnesses and help prevent those people from ending up in the hospital or jail.With voices coming from headphone speakers alternating between whispering and repeating negative statements, the officers had to fill out a resume and play cards together.

Burlington Police Sgt. Michael Madsen, left, and Mount Pleasant Police officer Dale Swart play cards on May 4 while listening to a recording that simulates hearing voices in their heads at Gateway Technical College. They are participating in Crisis Intervention Team training, which teaches officers to recognize signs of mental illness and to techniques to help those people.

They had to concentrate while the voices said things like “loser, loser, loser” and “You’re not funny. It’s not a joke. Everyone knows about you.”The officers only listened to the voices for about 10 minutes, but it was enough to give them a picture of what life would be like for someone with schizophrenia.“I could fairly well ignore it. But I don’t know how long term I could do that for,” said Dale Swart, a Mount Pleasant Police officer. “I think after a while it would literally break you down.”

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