I Heard Myself In His Mother’s Screams

Mar. 20, 2015

It all happens so suddenly. Jason Harrison’s mother walks out of her front door past the police officers who knocked calmly and ask how she’s doing. She had called for help to take her son who lives with schizophrenia to a local hospital.

Her son follows behind her, twiddling a small screwdriver in his hands.

“Drop that for me,” says one of the officers say. He says it three more times.

“Jay!” his mother yells. “Jay!” She can feel what’s about to happen. “Jay!” She screams, “Don’t shoo--!”

The ‘-t’ is muffled by the distorting echo of gunshots. Five of them.

Five bullets fired into the chest of Jason Harrison.

As the graphic video continues, you see Jason bleed to death on the driveway of his home. And you hear the tormented screams and sobs of his mother in the background. Her pain constricts my own throat and I clinch my jaw to prevent the tears welling in my eyes from beginning to roll down my face.

I understand her agony; I live uncomfortably close to that pain. My son lives with schizophrenia, and while right now he is doing well, I know that he’s always walking a tightrope. Meds stop working, he could stop taking meds—he could freefall back into psychosis.

It’s happened before. And I suspect it’ll happen again.

I imagine something similar may have happened in Jason’s life and his mother, needing help to get him to the hospital, called 911. That’s what we’ve been told to do. We’ve been told that the police are there to serve and protect. Help is coming. Instead, we now witness their tragedy in the video.

I don’t know why the police shot, but I do know that it could have been my son, my screams.

After seeing Jason die, I don’t know how to feel safe calling 911. I know mental illness is complicated. There are times when symptoms could be mistaken for willful actions. There is often anger, frustration and confusion. There are breaks with reality. If you don’t even know what you’re seeing, it can be frightening. Even if you do, it still can be.

Despite these realities, we love our sons and daughters. Today I can’t honestly tell you if I think it’s safer calling the police or trying to handle a difficult and potentially dangerous situation myself. I want to be able to trust those men and women, but from videos like this I know they aren’t any more trained or prepared to handle these situations than I am.

How many more senseless tragedies must happen before we say enough is enough? How many more of our children need to die?

This is what happens when an ill-equipped, broken system relies on people with guns to handle a psychiatric crisis. There needs to be more training. There needs to be more understanding. What we have now is unacceptable. This situation is what’s crazy and it makes me mad as hell.

 A mother cannot lose her son because we don’t care enough about finding a better solution.

Comments
Lisa
My son shot himself. It has been an uphill battle . I will be praying for this mother. I feel like there wasn't enough help for me at the time. He was schizophrenic as well and I miss him so much. I feel at times that i cannot go on myself. God has got me through it and I have had 5panic attacks.me and my 4year old granddaughter found him in the kitchen. I pray every night for better treatment.
4/26/2015 5:41:46 PM

Matt
I have been a police officer for almost 20 years. I have been on many calls involving people with mental illness and in crisis. For me to say all mentally ill people are violent is no more untrue than saying none of the police are prepared to handle these situations. Like anything else we can't let a few label the majority. I attended a 40 hour CIT class given by NAMI. Our chief makes this course a requirement for us. Most don't want to attend because it is a long week and some just are not comfortable talking about mentall illness. I thought the training was excellent. I learned a ton and am much more comfortable talking and interacting with people suffering from a mental illness. I try and treat those I interact with the way I would want my son, daughter, wife, mother, or father treated. Respect, empathy, and dignity goes a long way. The troubling part is when we feel our safety or others safety is being compromised. One thing is certain, we have to protect ourselves and others. Sometimes it takes a split second decision which can be the difference in us making it home or not and keeping others safe. The results are sometimes tragic to say the least. While I endorse body cameras and do wear one, I also realize they don't, at times, tell the entire story or paint the picture exactly. For anyone that has lost someone in a tragedy, I am sincerely sorry for your loss. We can only continue to educate ourselves with an open mind and a willingness to further educate ourselves.
4/21/2015 5:43:03 PM

Lisa
If they wanted to help, as i'm sure a "few" do, they would not treat human beings like they do. They talk in a condescending manner, they fill you with fear, and worst of all they act like they have more civil liberties because they wear a badge. My son is mentally ill and i'm so sad at things I have witnessed i'd rather die than ever call them again.
4/16/2015 6:56:01 PM

meg
there are training programs for the police officers in our area have been trained on how to deal with this with these kind of situations I don't agree with comments that they only want to get home the police it's not always like that and it's more than a tragedy what happened
4/7/2015 6:16:12 AM

meg
I'm speechless I'm heartbroken I woke thinking about my son and found
this.I'm trying totalk to some of his siblings.it feels like for he's not still alive,not inState Hospital for a year and a half some of his siblings haven't seen him for over a year and a half,my heart is breaking I go to meetings but I don't know what to do in the time in between.their adult children yet there my babies still.it doesn't do good to spell out all the slogans day at a time turn it over it doesn't help the pain sometimesI don't know it just don't know
4/7/2015 6:12:35 AM

Stephanie
Anchorage, AK has officers trained through the CIT program. They try to send one of them if they think the situation demands it. Of course that doesn't happen all of the time, but they try. The local NAMI group has done presentations to other officers to give them information about mental illnesses. Perhaps other cities could have presentations from NAMI or other organizations, or a doctor, or a psychologist. It wouldn't be the same as formal training but a starting point for training. The biggest problem in most cities is the lack of hospitals or facilities to admit an individual. Sometimes the only option is jail until a bed becomes available in a hospital.
4/3/2015 12:11:52 PM

Sandra
We couldn't call the cops in 1966, when my brother had an episode. He also has schizophrenia. I wouldn't call the cops if I needed help for my grandson today. Nothing has changed.
3/29/2015 12:11:18 AM

Bonnie Allan
Calm down--let's think about Mental Health History, and how this came about. Back in the mid-1980's (which was not that long ago), the Federal Government basically decided to close the Mental Health Hospitals by cutting off Federal Funding to them. Their intentions were good: thinking that this would FORCE State Agencies funded by LOCAL GOVERNMENTS to take care of the problems within their own areas. Before this decision, when a family member started to show signs/symptoms of distress, he or she could make arrangements to be admitted to one of the State Hospitals which were usually out in the country. My parents or one of his siblings had to do a lot of paperwork in preparation. I can remember the relief it gave to my brother when he was admitted, AND to the rest of the family who were unsure what to expect from his awful behavior. Once he was stable and we were allowed to visit, we would take turns. It seems to me that each time I went to Springfield, I saw a person who lived in the same relative vicinity as we did visiting a loved one. We could discuss our loved ones issues in terms that were helpful--not shocking. Yes, the police were sometimes involved when my brother refused to "cooperate" with me. We hated to call them, and only did so under dire circumstances. We were respectful to them, and they were respectful to us in our time of need. My brother had to earn his way back into the neighborhood--he never got released after being given a few pills. He had to earn it with his actions and cooperation--just the same as all the other PATIENTS NOT PRISONERS. It's no wonder to me that the prisons are overcrowded. They are filled with PEOPLE who deserve to be in a HOSPITAL. They need CARE and understanding,NOT PUNISHMENT.
3/28/2015 10:20:25 AM

Marshall
Great comments by the " psych-nurse "!
I worked with several charge nurses and they held themselves and their coworkers to such a hugh grade of patient care that I will always be proud of my work experience with them. Working in mental hospitals, not only do you recieve non violence crisis prevention training, but you are also trained in take down techniques, restraints and a host of other classes that you must pass prior to getting on the wards. My former training experience in martial arts also helped me take down and restrain patients who were acting out or attempting to use a weapon. Co-worker team work is the best way and Ive seen hundreds upon hundreds of sucessful handling of people who were completely out of control and violent without any major injuries to the person oir staff. Aggressive/unproffessional staff who take things personal and choose to duke it out and/or escalate situations to violence with patients are promptly rooted out of these institutions by proffessional staff/supervisors. De-escalation is always the objective. In addtion, having also worked in the corrections field in min to max prison settings with normal convicts to mentally ill convicts. I have stated for over thirty years that if ALL local, state and federal police type officers would have to do a manditory of working two to three years in a correctional prison system working with passive to highly aggressive personalities on a daily basis with no weapons, except your two way radio and being out numbered hundreds to one at a time and have to get them up, to their prison jobs, feed them, shower them, lock them up, etc. Then, we would probaly see a drastic change in how the local police see and treat the average person they encounter in the public. Why do i say that? Because, I have seen aggressive officers/personalities come into the corrections department right out of the military and/or law enforcement only to quit their jobs after just two weeks or less or just get fired. They are usually the ones who are assulted or worse by prisoners, cause huge waves by escalating situations or they just get laughed out. You have to use your authority through word, deed and the pen. You cannot force anyone to do anything unless you have some sort of mutual respect in conjuction with your authority and/or your person how you treat people. You dont have your gun, mace or what have you to grab, you have to use your mind, training and experince to get you through every day. It was by far one of the most stressful and demanding jobs that I have ever did, but it was also one of the most rewarding to myself as a person and I learned a great deal about myself and people in the process. The most difficult part of the job is dealing with ever changing policies and proceedures set up by the new incoming govnor or his buddy that has been appointed secretary of the dept who usually is a friend that was a ploice officer in a small town and really has no buisness in the position in the first place. Just like the public needs to learn more about mental illness and law enf needs to learn let go of the nazi type mentality in handling just the general public, let alone the mentally ill, but also people need to be aware and not look down on the correctional systems or the lay staff who work the daily grind with prisoners. They are often under paid, short of staff due to funds not getting to them, because its not popular to send money where prisoners are concerned. What happens? Have you ever wittnessed the effects of a prison riot? It's brutal violence and people usually die due to several reasons. Mistreatment, over crowding, no real healthcare, low pay and hiring anyone off the street who is willing to take on such a job. Also, to liberalism and giving anything that they demand has negative effects as well, balance is crucial. I encourage ALL of you to support these people who work these jobs with the mentally ill and within the prison systems, especially local and state, they take horrendous abuse, have skin made of buffalo hyde and usually are not paid near what they are worth. So do good police officers.. However, we have a serous and growing problem that needs to be corrected and defending such senseless and uneccessary homicides and then protecting and condoning these actions, policies and proceedures are just a step away from naziville. My grandfather used say.. " If you ever want to find out whats in a man? Just pin a badge on him. " As individuals, we often dont really even know who we are or how we will react to something until after we go through the experience and this is my personal experience as well. TRAINING.. Thats why we have training, policies and proceedure for the people who are given authority to have a humane standard that is functional and safe for all parties when possible. Where there is a will, there is usually a way.. If one sows in death and violence, then one will reap it as well. If you dont properly socialize your dog, then it will usually be aggressive and attack strangers, etc. How many times have you seen an aggressive dog owner of an aggressive type dog win a case in front of "Judge Judy"? NEVER.. With people working harder than ever and the dwindling middle class, job pressue, families, bills, etc. People will occassionally break down, but how we treat them and what we do with them is vital to all of us.
3/27/2015 1:27:54 PM

B. Kendrick
Why was not the information related to the 911 that they would be sending officers to a home with a schren...young man. In this way the officers may have been more prepared mentally. Instead the cops mindset were not prepared to handle this situation in a different manner. My heart goes out to this family. I know the challenge one faces with someone who is dealing with a mental illness. These mental people are loving, kind and have the same needs that we all have; to be loved, and to find a way to fit into society when so many look at mental illness as the worse illness. We learn to handle whatever challenge is placed in our life. Mental illness is no different from any other chronic illness.
3/27/2015 12:59:52 PM

Gil Gadson
We can talk about this until we are blue in the face. Insensitivity increases and grows when no true accountability ever takes place. The abuse, mistreatment and murder of people of color and the mentally ill seems to be a daily occurrence now. We dropped the ball a very long time ago when we lost the courage to do what it takes to change situations. When Trayvon Martin was murdered and Zimmerman walked free, The masses, black and white should have acted.. A young man walks down the street with Skittles and Ice tea and ends up shot to death by another man who is not a peace officer ,who was clearly told not to follow him. How is it possible that some actually said we have to accept the process of the law and the prosecution did not prove it's case when clearly not only Zimmerman but the police blatantly lied about Zimmerman's injuries and no way should this young man have ended up dead. The woman whose mentally ill son just got murdered must feel like she is living in a twilight zone. Her ordeal brings to mind the woman who called police to say there was a young kid who was brandishing, but seemingly playing with a gun. The woman said she was not sure if the gun was real but was concerned.. The police pulled up right next to the boy who was only twelve, jumped out and without issuing a warning immediately shot this child to death.I am not talking about wanton violence but we should have joined together and stopped shopping for a day, if many don't go to work for a day as a start and when the pockets of those in this capitalistic country are affected..they will listen.I am sick of talking to people who only will go so far and rationalize why. There is nothing to compromise about. If we hold these so-called officers of the law 's feet to the fire, prosecute and seriously punish the ones who take a life and abuse their authority, they will have no choice but to stop. Fire them, take away their pensions, imprison them for life. Hand out stiff sentences and I guarantee you they will stop. We watched a mentally ill woman walking down the highway get thrown to the ground by an officer who then began to punch her in the face a total of 15 times as motorists watched. People should have jumped out of their cars and subdued this animal by any means necessary instead of watching the woman cower, trying to protect her face. People in power laugh at us as we accept their abuse and accept paltry offerings of body cams , and studies and commissions where people get paid to simply talk about what we already know. Some have said that I sound angry as if that's a bad thing.......wow.
3/27/2015 10:41:45 AM

Elizabeth
I too have a Schizophrenic son and have been watching these videos and reading about similar things happening for years. I worry about this all of the time. My heart goes out to the Mother who only wanted to get help for her son. I think about this, talk about this but I don't know what to do about it. What can we do to really make change? If I knew how to organize and get political backing so that the police would be trained. I believe the police are scared of mentally ill people and I get that however they do NOT have the right to shoot them down and kill them. They are not criminals! They are ill! Can't they use a stun gun? I saw the video of the young man with the screw driver and he did NOT make an aggressive move. Why did they do this? Why?
3/27/2015 10:02:40 AM

Adam D
living with bipolar disorder and personal experiences I've had with the police while manic has led me to not trust or really like cops.
3/26/2015 10:43:46 PM

Karen Santiago
Heartbreaking! So sorry for this mother and family. My son is chronic schizoaffective and it has been difficult. This is actually an understatement living with a loved one with this mental illness. I pray for more help and understanding. I have been to jail for a night when calling for help. It is a nightmare at times.
3/26/2015 7:23:34 PM

Maryann Stensrude
Apparently, it is not happening in all states or cities - especially in much smaller towns across the country, but when it is a crisis intervention usually a social worker and mental health professional accompany the police (if they are called via 911). Also, if it is available to you, I believe you can call a mental health crisis team directly. They are trained to diffuse the situation and the person to a hospital to be, at least, stabilized. This is a whole other story, but what I am seeing in the news lately is a LOT of police reacting with deadly force during traffic stops, or simple misunderstandings. They are being too quick to shoot to kill! Even if they felt threatened, they could have subdued him with a stun gun, or bean bag... Anything, except a bullet! Please stop!
3/26/2015 5:39:24 PM

Gabby
This video is just wrong.The mother clearly says her son has schizophrenia!
3/26/2015 4:34:38 PM

Marti C
Yes, someone start a petition on change.org, and let us know, so we can sign it, please! I also have a son with bipolar disorder. He is an adult, so we are blocked by HIPPA from helping at all when he is psychotic, because he is the Messiah and 'doesn't need help" then. After two separate hospitalizations in our county in Texas after a manic episode started in the middle of last November, he spent 2 months in jail in Lake Charles, LA for 'possession of stolen property' after going into the residence of a friend of ours and taking her purse and her car. The LA charges were finally dropped, and he had to wait a week and a half to be picked up for transportation to our county this past Tuesday afternoon. He still has not arrived in the local jail, however, and I finally found out yesterday that a 'private contractor' takes care of transportation, especially from another state. Their hub is in Kentucky, so it is possible that he had to go there first, then be transferred to another bus before he'll get here!!
The mentally ill are not only unable to get treatment when they need it, when they become prisoners, they are not treated like human beings!
Please look at the information I pasted in earlier in this discussion. It is a no-brainer, ever single county in this country needs to be implementing this program that WORKS!! We all need to advocate locally for this. It not only saves the mentally ill by using prevention instead of crisis intervention only, but it also saves tax payer dollars, which can always be seen by anyone, even those who do not understand as we do about the human side of the issue.
I have pasted it in again here:
Please look at what is being done in San Antonio, TX, in Bexar County, through the Center for Health Care Strategies (http://www.chcs.org/promoting-health-access-keep-mentally-ill-jail/), and especially by the work of the head of the organization, Leon Evans (http://www.chcs.org/resource/profiles-in-innovation-leon-evans/).
This integrated work between law enforcement, hospitals, judiciary, MH professionals, private hospitals, etc. simply MUST be implemented around the country. It is in practice in Bexar County, TX, and NAMI needs to work toward it spreading to every country in the US. This seems like a no-brainer to me.
3/26/2015 11:42:57 AM

Holly
My young veteran son was recently diagnosed with a ptsd, anxiety, cognitive disorder, mood disorder, and schizophrenia. He is quiet, sweet, and very compassionate being. It really hurts me to read other's experiences that they've suffered and endured when a human compassion and kindness would have done the job. I don't know if this can help but my son now wears a medical bracelet with some vital medical & contact information engraved on it. As far as making public aware more, maybe every newspaper carrier should have nami.org section as well as local, and per chance, every police man & woman educate themselves. Thanks all for sharing. Namaste!
3/26/2015 11:34:06 AM

joe ray
A screwdriver is a potential deadly weapon, especially in close quarters. People make deadly mistakes all the time, trying to beat a red light when someone else is doing the same thing from the other direction for example. If mom had not just walked past the cops, had warned them he had a screwdriver, things could have been different. Much more needs to be done but as mush as we police need to have standardized mandatory CIT training, the populations we serve need to understand what we can and can not do. While the mentally ill individual is by definition incapable of helping himself when decompensated, his supporters need to be aware of what is going on. One death is too many, but we all, police and the community need to work together.
3/26/2015 11:01:28 AM

Sarah H
As a Nurse I have always wondered why the police need to be so harsh in subduing someone. Now I know they are doing what they are trained to do.I'm referring to a person without a lethal weapon.Nurses know how to subdue a threatening, aggressive person without harming them.I have even had patients come @ me with makeshift weapons. Nurses get beat up all the time. If they hit back; they lose their nursing license (and rightfully so).Even if doctor ordered meds are given (to subdue); they do not work instantly.It is possible to physically subdue someone without shooting them or choking them.
I believe the majority of police have good intentions and truly are there to serve and protect the public.
Police need training to assist them in dealing with the mentally ill. I am grateful for the police and what they do.They are put in situations where they must make split second decisions. Their very lives are on the line.They are doing what they are trained to do.The training needs to change,
3/26/2015 10:20:33 AM

cheryl
I feel really sad and it breaks my heart as a mom to read this. I'm so sorry for the family. And yes, something has to change. That should not have happened.
3/26/2015 10:04:58 AM

Donna Hoffman
There is no doubt that police need training on how to respond to calls for help where mental illness is a factor. We have all heard stories of law enforcement spending days or weeks negotiating with terrorists in hostage situations. However, police appear to treat cases like Jason's as a domestic dispute and show up prepared to take someone down at the slightest lack of compliance. There are police departments who train their employees with other means of non lethal force for dealing with those who do not comply.
3/26/2015 9:40:06 AM

Lorraine Rainey
My comment...I am so sad and sorry for the tragedy and pain of your loss. My question is for the Law Enforcement agency, who is the first call for help that any family makes.....WHY, with all of the known statistics about the number of calls for assistance that involve mental illness, are there so few CIT trained officers? WHY do you find the time in your academies to teach all involved about the weapons and when to use them in self defense against criminals but do not give the recruits the CIT training in order for them to have the knowledge they would need to be able to distinguish the difference between a person who has made a choice to be a criminal intending harm , or a person who is suffering a nightmare psychosis that they have no control over who is in as much need of compassion and assistance as any victim of a tragic accident or crime? CIT training needs to be a requirement in order to graduate for any person who is in any way shape or form involved in serving or protecting our most vulnerable loved ones who just happen to try and live with that medical diagnosis of mental illness.
3/26/2015 9:29:27 AM

James
In North Carolina we are training police under the CIT program (Crisis Intervention Team) training. Unfortunately the classes take 5 business days and only a percentage of police have gotten the training. I couldn't watch the video, it's my worst nightmare.
3/26/2015 9:01:19 AM

Don
America is in a scary predicament, both at home and abroad. I've read, and agree, that NOTHING happens in politics accidentally. This is all going to come to a head and it isn't going to be pretty. A study of the history of Policing in America, will reveal that, after the days of "the sheriff, police were formed BY THE WEALTHY to keep the workers in line (and down). Like politicians, they put on a smiley face with their "preserve and protect" jargon, but their purpose IMO is quite different. There are far too many murders and with the advent of the video camera, their actions have been manifested to many.
In almost all murders by police, the victim as been mentally ill. In almost all mass shootings in the U.S., the perpetrator has been mentally ill. And yet there is an agenda to take guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens or to at least have their guns registered so that the "authorities" know where to go and confiscate them when the time comes.
I know that this is a political rant and I am not missing the context, here. The only way that things will change in America is when the People protest, in mass, and DEMAND change. Nothing short of the demonstrations in the early and mid-sixties in Washington, DC, and elsewhere-all over the country, will policing change and will health care for the mentally ill change. Special interest groups control Congress- the People don't. And prolonged demonstrations (by those who do not have the funds that the Corporations and PACS have) will be the only venue (by which those that are not being represented and those that are not being helped by the Government) that will be successful in changing this country. The Media is complicit in their barrage of propaganda that focuses on the Industrial Military Complex and their "heroes" instead of the needs and representation of the People. Please do not consider this an anarchist's rant.
3/26/2015 8:03:52 AM

Kim Laurie
Someone Please start a Change.org for this poor family and the Many others affected by such a broken system.
3/26/2015 7:58:06 AM

Elaine
This is the saddest thing ever, when faced with crisis and being so alone feeling that no one understands is such a harsh reality. I like to think of myself as a person who believes with every problem there is a solution. I just pray for the right people to listen. There is so so much news these days stories like this get buried on the internet. Everyone in every town across the nation should share this article - hand delivered to the police department of their local town with a brief detail of their family member and document the situation. Who is in for that? This has to stop and we need a sensible plan and some real support. They may just not know. In their training on this subject it may just be helpful to have local families speak to the group of officers and law enforcement officials, we may just be able to open their eyes. How do we get started?
3/26/2015 7:17:16 AM

Melody
I have had to call crisis control for my son Jason and they brought the police. He was also in a episode. I told the two policeman that if they were afraid I would stand between them and my son which I did. They ordered me out of the room. I have explained how sick he is physically as well as psychotic but as soon as I turned my back and walked out of the room they shot him with the taise gun twice by his heart. I am terrified of the way that most police handle situations. God bless you Jason,s Mom.
3/26/2015 7:17:00 AM

Rob Browning
Which of you want that "little" screwdriver poked through your heart or driven into your neck.
A mentally ill assailant can have that tool in your eye before you can blink.
The video clearly shows a known dangerous unstable man aggressively moving towards officers, deadly weapon in hand.
I've been in mental treatment for years and have problems with hostility.
I guarantee you I can shove that little screwdriver up your nose before you have a chance to say "Lithium".
3/26/2015 6:03:44 AM

Dianakeegan
I too can see myself in this mother's place and fear that my son could find himself similarly confronted by police officers not trained to defuse tension but shoot at the first sign of what they think is aggression. The spate of shootings of unarmed black men has made me think a lot about this. We need properly trained police officers AND security personnel, preferably units specially trained to deal with the mentally ill. This is terrible. What a tragedy for this mother.
3/26/2015 4:53:02 AM

Wendy
I work in a mental health hospital emergency department. These are the people I see, assess and admit day after day. In fact, over 5000 per year. I do not have a personal connection and would like to point out that a screwdriver is and can be a deadly weapon. I am not justifying actions, just a fact. Further, Jason was schizophrenic and his mother called the police because he needed to go to the hospital. This could mean anything from not taking his medication to command hallucinations to harm himself or others. The police absolutely need to be cautious and the mere fact that Jason had a weapon is troubling. Police stations and EMS across the country have been spending millions of dollars to educate those working with the community on mental illness. In North Carolina we have a fabulous system. People call our hospital in crisis and IF, they want to harm themselves or others I will send the police. I work in tandem with another clinician who calls the police, I stay on the phone with the person until the police arrive and they are able to clear the scene and EMS can come in. The entire time, I keep the person on the phone informed and calm. Typically they are brought to our hospital where we are able to meet, admit them and bring the situation to a safe closing. This is not to say we don't need improvement within our systems or that many of our mentally ill are located in prison. They are, but we need to look at this and other situations without our emotions leading the way. What is working where and how did they accomplish it? Make it happen where you live!
3/26/2015 1:38:04 AM

MaryE.
The mental health system is completely broken. Look at our society. We spend millions upon millions of dollars on football. Actors and athletes get
paid millions of dollars. When someone wins the lottery, one person usually
gets millions of dollars. What about mental health which affects so many in our society. What sponsorship does mental health get? It's truly pathetic to see where our values lye. (sic)
3/26/2015 12:39:18 AM

Treacy Mckinnis
My old son call the police for my 17 year old, they came call gun out ready to shoot, they took him down in the front yard, my older son asked if they could take him
to the hospital and they said no.
They said if he had pointed on of the many knife he had put in his room at him , they could take him to jail.
Less than a week later he had a psychotic breakdown, they put him jail , the druged him chained him up and change strapped him to the bed for 46 days. I tried to get help from every politician including writing to Obama, with out any help. My my son has dual nationality I called the British Consulate within days they had him transferred to a mental hospital, They only call up the jail and said who they where and who they wanted to talk to.
I thank god I had them to help, but I am now so scared of police, I practically keep him on a leash won't let him out of my sight.
we all need to do something soon, if we all stand up and say no more enough time, they will have to listen.
3/25/2015 11:48:30 PM

Bob
Peer Support is our immediate best hope and practice.
3/25/2015 11:32:33 PM

Bob
Denial and ignorance + ignorance and denial will eliminate all of us who aren't one of them if we choose to remain ignorantly in denial. Who are them you ask? The killers and those whose property and sense of power they have been brainwashed and are being paid to protect. Although the horrific slaughter of millions of Europe's Jewish citizens dominate our thinking regarding the reign of terror that was WW II, we must never forget that the mentally ill and otherwise disabled, the aged, homosexuals, religious believers and People of Color were also on the list of undesirables slated for extermination by Hitler's regime. It wasn't then one evil German man over there and it isn't one physical American man over here responsible for the ever increasing slaughter of the spirit of EUGENIC's American bucket list of working CLASS undesirables. We must call these police killings what they are. They are premeditated MURDER by State sponsored terrorists wearing police uniforms. Death squads carrying out orders. It is nation wide. We the people can stop it if we intensively inform and organize ourselves. It is now the year 2015. If not now when? If not here where? If not us Who?
3/25/2015 11:30:40 PM

Sherri
This strikes too close to home.
3/25/2015 11:30:28 PM

Laurie S
Our local affiliation, NAMI of Beaufort County, SC teaches a course on crisis intervention to the local police departments. This allows the dispatcher to select an officer trained in dealing with the mentally ill when just such a situation arises. An excellent program for a serious problem.
3/25/2015 11:20:34 PM

Grace
So very sad. Nothing nice about facism in any form. But this issue needs to be addressed by our representatives, people we elect to represent us. I, too have a son who has had several trips to jail caused by not taking the meds or themn not working. So frustrating.
3/25/2015 11:01:24 PM

Elizabeth
I, too, have a son who struggles with mental health issues. He is a minor. After an unacceptable encounter with a police officer, I discovered that in NC it behooves you to request a CIT Trained Officer when speaking to the dispatcher. CIT stands for crisis intervention team, indicating that the officer has graduated from a forty hour course in which officers learn about mental health issues, medications, de-escalation techniques, community resources, alternative etc. They hear from people with mental health issues and their family members. It is extremely effective and improves the way law enforcement and the community respond to people experiencing mental health crises. It is a fantastic course and I recommend that you contact your precinct to inquire about it. If it is not currently in effect, contact your local NAMI group and they can point you in the right direction.
3/25/2015 10:39:40 PM

Nena Hodges
laura ferris said... "...Cops in Spokane, ..... did the same thing with a..... mentally disabled man....... and wound up choking him to death while beating him to death ............ Otto Zehm's death was entirely avoidable, and would have never happened if the police had had training in calming and subduing those with mental impairments." I agree. Also, it must have been extremely excessive force. I can't imagine having to choke and beat him to death for any reason!
I
3/25/2015 9:50:24 PM

Ed Beckett
I understand the fears of all caregivers of those with mental serious mental illness. I too called for help when my son with Bipolar with Psychosis. Before NAMI sponsored training they treated my son as a criminal rather than an ill person. They were ready to taze him if he did not drop the sink sprayer! Charged him with what amounts some crime causing a court hearing etc. This after we simply called for help! We need to start demanding, not asking for better treatment and it starts politically with what in the US is the DA office who can cause changes to the law! Our African American citizens are demanding a better understanding and so should our caregivers for mentally ill. If police do not fully understand that those with mental illness do not always understand the demands being asked of them. It is not that the poor fellow with the screwdriver was not wanting to respond to demands of the officers, he probably did not comprehend what they wanted him to do or why. It was a shameful act and the department that trained them should lose their certification as police. This is probably what should happen when like events occur...decertification, fines and lawsuits and NAMI should appoint legal representation for events like this. I know we do not want to alienate the police but this type treatment needs to stop and stop now!
3/25/2015 9:01:24 PM

Theresa
The police in our area are trained well. We called 911 when my son went to stand outdoors on a snowbank and wouldn't come inside - he said he was waiting for a chariot to take him to heaven. When we told him he really needed to come in, he got upset. It took the two police officers only a couple of minutes to arrive. They were so kind! The older one kept my husband and me calm, while the younger one talked respectfully to my son. That officer was able to convince my son to get into the ambulance voluntarily. I could not have asked for better support!
3/25/2015 8:58:31 PM

Kat
Police, EMTs, firefighters, social workers, etc. can go through Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) programs to be trained (40 hours) how to best interact with persons living with a mental illness. You can request that a CIT trained officer respond to your call. If your community does not already offer the training, I would contact the local NAMI and community leaders to get it started. You may need to push to get the training in your community, but it can make a life or death difference. Ask for the training, ask for the trained officer.
(I'm repeating this in caps so people who are scrolling through dozens of comment will see this info, sorry)

CRISIS INTERVENTION TEAMS (CIT) training programs help in these situations
3/25/2015 8:49:50 PM

C. Wesenberg
It is interesting that a Certified Nursing Assistant in a Skilled Nursing Facility can disarm a patient with a screw driver & a police person can only kill them. Police are suppose to have a lot more education & screening than a CNA in a SNF. The police make a lot more money than a CNA working in a SNF. The police receive early retirement, but it is common for CNA to work past 65.
3/25/2015 8:45:13 PM

Vladimir
Even in medieval times, centuries ago, every country had refuges for mentally ill people. Now, in XXI century in the US there are no such refuges because they were closed to save some money. What a shame!
3/25/2015 8:28:26 PM

Marshall
Horrific crime justified by self governing policies and procedures and further evidence that we are living in policed states. Unfortunately, these types of crimes against society happen all to frequently. Locally, a nursing home called for assistance in handling an eighty some year old paying client with dementia, as he was holding a fork and refusing to cooperate with staff. The senior could have easily been man handed by police without injury, but instead, he was severely tased. Why did they choose to tase him? Because they were previously given tasers and cleared to use them as they see fit.
My having worked in the mental health field and for the department of corrections, I can say that over the last thirty years there has been a huge culture shift in our society as a whole in how we view and treat humanity and what's taught or not taught in the home. It's not going to get any better, as we have went to a huge escalation in heavy handed military type maneuvers of war against our own people. As noted, politicians are corrupt with acquiring power and playing ball to serve their own lives first and maybe yours if you can be of use to one of them in their careers. Sorry to say, but this is not going away anytime soon and imo only going to grow worse. The public and militias grow more paranoid every day just by watching these videos and the national news. Are there a lot of good law enforcement still out there?
Of course there are. However, teach your children well and consider the potential violent outcomes, should you choose to make that call for help to what used to be called a peace officers position. Remember, ddefiance of the law is also growing with it, but shouldn't be used as an excuse to inject steroids into self governing policies and procedures. People need to get organized and communities need to know what is in the local law enforcement policies and procedures that is drawn up and approved out of their view. It's difficult to do when were all trying to make a living in the meantime..
3/25/2015 8:28:18 PM

Mary
To those who say "a screwdriver is not a weapon", you are sorely naive. A screwdriver can be just as deadly as a knife or even a pencil depending on the person who is wielding it. I am a mental health clinician and the wife and sister to law enforcement officers. Though many are not trained to handle mental health situations, our communities are actually working to improve this through grant funded programs that have mental health clinicians travel with law enforcement officers to potential mental health scenes, with the hope of diverting a person from prison or death. I know about this because the community I work in has this program and law enforcement officers have been amazing in implementing it and changing their approach. Hopefully these types of programs may be expanded throughout the country in the next few years. We all must remember though that no one can predict what anyone will do at any time, mentally ill or not. Law enforcement officers are the same as the rest of us in that they are just trying to get home to their families at the end of the day and protect YOU in the process. Your hate and ignorance about them and their policies is what makes this country worse. You will sit and write thing about how terrible they are, but as soon as you are in trouble the first thing you will do is call 911 and they will respond despite your feelings towards them. Remember that for the times that something tragic like what happened in the story occurs there are a hundred stories in which police have saved people's lives or a mentally ill person has gotten the helpful hat they needed. My heart goes out to this mother and all those who struggle with a family member or friend with mental illness as i am very close to these situations on a daily basis. Education and further training for everyone, not just police, is what will make these situations better and hopefully occur less often.
3/25/2015 8:25:31 PM

Joe P.
When my son was first diagnosed with schizophrenia, it started with a 911 call from my daughter after my son attacked me with his fists. While outside waiting for the police to arrive, my daughter called a friend who said to be sure to tell the police that we want him taken for psychiatric review. By the time the police arrived, I was able to get outside with my daughter. My son had locked himself inside but when the police came, he was calmed and let us in with no resistance. I asked for them to take him to the local mental health center for evaluation. But one of the officers suddenly stepped toward my son and he took a short step back because he didn't expect it. The officer grabbed him and handcuffed him. Then they announced that they were arresting him, in spite of my requests. They arrested him on the basis that he resisted arrest, when all he did was take a small step backwards when the cops approached him. For three days, he was held in the county lock-up 30 miles away, with no medical treatment or evaluation. We were not allowed to go there or call him. We were afraid that he might hurt himself or get violent and possibly be shot by the guards. It was a nightmare. He is under care and on medication but he still gets moments where he is angry, mostly from fear and the weariness of the voices and the OCD. I think I am learning how to deal with the bas periods but I don't think I would ever call the police unless my son were to threaten someone other than myself, something he has never done thus far in four years. He is age 21. I would rather take my chances than involve the police, based on my own experiences, these stories and others that I have heard. A larger PD might have a handful of officers who have some training but chances are they won't be the ones to respond. Here, there is a private liaison organization that will dispatch to provide assistance and help with the police in such situations, but now that he is of age, I don't believe they would respond. I feel so bad for this mom. I don't know how she bears it. There really needs to be more understanding and skilled help for the mentally ill.
3/25/2015 7:52:40 PM

Cathy
This isn't just happening to mentally ill people...but anyone. I laugh when I see police cars that say "Protect and Serve". Yes, there are some good cops. But the majority, whether it is is a result of their own personalities or character that caused them to become police, their work environment, the authority they answer to, the work they've done, or their own mental health issues--have become way too trigger happy. In most of the cases making the news...whether it is based on mental health issues, race, or even an actual threat--with a gun--could have been resolved without the use of actual bullets. You don't need to kill someone to take them down.
Jason needed medical help. He didn't need to be murdered. Even if the cops insist on using actual bullets, can't they aim and take a non-lethal shot? Some day mental illness, as we continue to explore humananity's genetic makeup, will be recognized for what it is--an illness--not a curse, not a character fault, not an act, and not something an individual asked for, deserved, or created. It is no different than a physical illness...and in many cases, it is not even an illness, but merely a trait or part of what makes that person him or herself. How many people do you know with Asperger's that have incredible memories or brilliant science and math skills? What if that is what our society revered instead of athletic ability or social skills? Who would be considered ill then? Are you aware that most people who suffer from depression also have a more realistic and clearer picture of the world as it is than people who don't? So why is the person is who is capable of seeing things as they really are labeled the ill one??
Some day mental "illness" will touch the lives of those who currently fail to recognize it for what it is. It may happen to them (even though they don't believe it), it may be their son or daughter, or perhaps someone they love, admire, and/or respect will disclose to them their own struggles, chipping away at the outdated image they hold onto so tightly.
I don't know what else to say...the writers who have been attacked by someone who was mentally ill when the police did not listen, the police who do care and simply want to come home to their families, those who have been wrongly killed on all sides. It is all based on fear--False Evidence Appearing Real. We must all become better educated. Do what you can, where you are, with what you have. It matters.
3/25/2015 7:41:51 PM

Johnnie Sue Wadholm
I am writing a paper on this for my english class. Y'alls comments would really help. PLEASE find me on facebook! Thank you. My son is in prison for 17 years for something he didn't do. And he has ADHD, ODD, Bipolar with Schizophrenic tendencies, OCD and PTSD! Johnnie Sue Wadholm is my facebook. I could use your help.
3/25/2015 7:41:38 PM

Sheila
Each police force should have a mental health crisis team, just as the do for narcotics. This is unacceptable behavior of our police force, officers need education in psychology, sociology, and mental health incorporated into their schooling. And aren't guns suppose to be the last resort? Where was the taser, mace, or even a dog if this action felt threatening to the officer? My family has experienced the anger of police mistreating our son who has Aspergers, Bipolar, and Anxiety. I too fear this could happen to my son.
3/25/2015 7:41:11 PM

Victor
That's it, I'm writing a book so other people don't shoot other people for walking with screwdrivers.
--Certifiably 0% screwdriver fatalities

I'm sorry, but this is really messed up, I'm sorry for your loss Mrs. Harrison.
3/25/2015 7:27:02 PM

Dawn Warner
He never even came at them. Such a tragedy.
3/25/2015 7:24:09 PM

Julie Gaines
I to feel the agony the mother is going through. I'm in the process of getting this to attention. I tried to advocate for my own family who all 3 boys have a mental illness. My middle nephew has been threatened to go to jail if he acts out again. I feel that's not the answer. Where's the justice?
3/25/2015 7:23:25 PM

Connie
So then who DO we call?
3/25/2015 7:21:22 PM

lynn
So upset by this, as my son just diagnosed with psychosis. Is gentle but gets agitated. I'm scared for him. :(
3/25/2015 7:13:06 PM

Michelle
My son who has schizophrenia needed medical attention and we called for an ambulance. The ambulance waited past our driveway. The police arrived in our driveway, handcuffed my son and drove him to the hospital. he was not allowed to ride in an ambulance due to him having mental illness. They said it was not safe for the emergency workers to take him. I insisted riding with my son in the police car to the hospital. What an experience! The car they sent had a hard plastic back seat and had a cage between the front and back seat. Animals have a more comfortable ride to the pound. I am really afraid someday when I am no longer alive to protect my son from the horrible treatment given to the mentally ill.
3/25/2015 6:55:18 PM

Evelyn
This is what we do now....shoot first then ask questions.........it doesn't matter what is wrong with the person....sad
3/25/2015 6:51:19 PM

amy lyne
From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people; Today, the US is 5% of the World population and has 25% of world prisoners. No other country jails so many for so little. Millions more on probation for victimless little things generating more revenue for the system.

I believe that in order to continue generate revenue for the prison industrial complex at the current rate police have had to become more and more violent and brutal. This is the root cause.

"Zero tolerance" The politicians sold it and the people bought it, so here we are with a police state like country and people getting killed by the state over nothing.

Everyone I think needs to look at the bigger picture.
3/25/2015 11:24:11 AM

Kim Greer
I don't care who it is, you should never shoot a mentally ill person unless they are a real threat to you. A screwdriver is not a real threat, a gun maybe, but not a screwdriver. That poor mother. God Bless her.
3/24/2015 9:58:48 AM

Terry Magaran
My husband and I went to NAMI for help getting our grown son back on medication. He belives he doesn't need it. They couldn't help. They told us to call non-emergency police. I told the dispatcher that we needed to go to a mental hospital. They police came, jumped him. Tazered him and took him to jail. They said he reached for the officers gun. He didn't. We watched the whole thing. At first they charged him with resisting arrest. Arrest for what! Its been several weeks and there still is no court date. We are glad the police did not shoot him, like your son. I know the feeling of trying to help and really just making things worse. What can we do??
3/23/2015 1:11:37 AM

Laura
We need to find a way to form a petition based on this article to put on www.change.org.
3/21/2015 10:49:57 PM

Todd Klopfer
I have spent 30 years working with the mentally ill in a major emergency department. I am fortunate to live in an area that I believe our law enforcement is well trained dealing with the mentally ill. Unfortunately we still live in a society that looks at mental illness as a weakness and not disease. The funding for the treatment of the mentally ill reflects that societal belief.
3/21/2015 8:06:18 PM

Star Gomez
This is very scary for my son as well. He's had a few run-ins already with the police and they absolutely have no compassion for the mentally ill. After my son was well and told me what he went through at the hands of police and security in jail, it honestly sounds like they get a kick out of abusing and tormenting because they know they won't get caught and they just enjoy treating someone not in their right mind like an animal!! Sorry but I hate all law enforcement!!!
3/21/2015 7:04:10 PM

Brenda Beach
I feel the same way this mother feels. I watched the Video. I was so angry at the police officer who felt the need to shoot a person at close range 5 times. To think that this officer has a job to protect people. My heart aches for the loss of a life, and the Mother who thought she did the right thing, to witness the unnecessary death of her son.
3/21/2015 4:45:14 PM

laura ferris
This is so sad, and too common. Cops in Spokane, where I live, did the same thing with a harmless, strange-acting mentally disabled man a couple of years ago, and wound up choking him to death while beating him to death in the convenience store where he shopped every day. Otto Zehm's death was entirely avoidable, and would have never happened if the police had had training in calming and subduing those with mental impairments.
3/21/2015 3:38:52 PM

Tom
30 UK Police vs man armed with machete in the street ...
www.youtube.com/watch?v=cX5CPx4RKWw

There was no need to kill Jason Harrison , he was trying to run away to avoid a trip to an abusive psychiatric hell hole and forced drugging.
3/21/2015 10:53:00 AM

mary
I know exactly about this. And I know exactly how this mother feels. I have a son with this illness and other family members.Thank you for this story. It unfortunately is not in politicians' best interests to help our adult children. Just in their politically correct interests. Making the rich richer and eliminating people like this who don't contribute to the rich man's pocket. Our sons and daughters are useless to them. Therefore they are victims of a silent unrecognized genocide. It is heart wrenching. Abortion also is a silent genocide. Politicians don't have interests in the weaker members of our society. They just want to eliminate them.They have no use for them. They don't even work on making things better for them. They could care less. God bless the weaker citizens of the world. These innocent people pay the price for the world's evils. They pay a high price with their lives. God bless them. They are martyr like. Someone has to pay the price. Blood of the innocents!
3/21/2015 10:30:06 AM

Marti C
Thank you for your article. You speak for me, and for so many others. We need to focus on prevention!!
"How many more senseless tragedies must happen before we say enough is enough? How many more of our children need to die? This is what happens when an ill-equipped, broken system relies on people with guns to handle a psychiatric crisis. There needs to be more training. There needs to be more understanding. What we have now is unacceptable. This situation is what’s crazy and it makes me mad as hell."
Please look at what is being done in San Antonio, TX, in Bexar County, through the Center for Health Care Strategies (http://www.chcs.org/promoting-health-access-keep-mentally-ill-jail/), and especially by the work of the head of the organization, Leon Evans (http://www.chcs.org/resource/profiles-in-innovation-leon-evans/).
This integrated work between law enforcement, hospitals, judiciary, MH professionals, private hospitals, etc. simply MUST be implemented around the country. It is in practice in Bexar County, and NAMI needs to work toward it spreading to every country in the US. This seems like a no-brainer to me.
3/21/2015 9:21:50 AM

Nancy Raimondo
sosorry. I was married to a schizophrenic who stabbed me 16 times murdered our ten month old and killed himself. The cops took two hours for the swat team to break down the door. I live with it daily. It was preventable as he preplanned it and told others he was going to do it. So sorry for your loss. They need better training for this
3/21/2015 4:24:55 AM

karen LEO Wife
As the wife of a police officer and as the family member of a bipolar/borderline personality sufferer, I can tell you first hand that the police are not trained to handle mentally ill people. To them, all they want is to make it home to their family. So if anyone comes at them with a potential weapon, mentally ill or not, they will be taken down one way or another. Its very unfortunate. Although the public doesn't understand what its like to be hated, and threatened and have that constant fear that they may not make it home. I wish people would understand that most policemen really do want to help.
3/21/2015 1:03:49 AM

Natalie Gaidry De Angelis
I think society needs to rethink who it is that is mentally ill...Someone twiddling a screwdriver...really? Get a grip on life.
3/20/2015 11:33:06 PM

Natalie Gaidry De Angelis
I just cannot believe that these policemen are even sane?....Twiddling a screwdriver is a threat? How? It seems that the policemen are the mentally ill ones.
3/20/2015 11:29:21 PM

ginger ramsey
In Missouri our current governor has cut millions of dollars in mental health funding causing institutions to close their doors. A lot of our mentally ill are being held in jail cells because there's no other place to go. And they dont get the treatment they need. Instead they get taunted and abused.
3/20/2015 10:22:22 PM

Abby Safer
My Don is mentally ill, too. On the boarder of control and not in control, sometimes. I'm terrified of the police hurting my son. They are not trained to "subdue". They are trained to kill.
3/20/2015 8:52:02 PM

Kathryn Hitch*****
Where did this happen? I can't find the city. Where is the NAMI chapter to help change what happened?
3/20/2015 8:05:38 PM

Katie
I completely agree, calling the police isn't safe! Especially for those of us with mental health issues! There needs to be a support system in place for everyone. Don't call the crisis lines either, for they will send the police to your home. All of us who are feeling suicidal ask ourselves, should we do suicide by cop? Because we know they will shoot us, it has been happening for years. NEVER call the police on someone you don't intend to see get shot and die. #mentalhealthlivesmatter
3/20/2015 8:02:47 PM

Sharon
I agree that it is hard to trust the police with psychiatric calls most are not trained and they are armed. The system needs to change.
3/20/2015 7:53:10 PM

Samantha
My God, he had a SCREWDRIVER! They killed this poor young man over a screwdriver. I wish I hadn't watched the video. This is so sad and sickening.
3/20/2015 7:24:34 PM