Statement on the Killing of Daniel Prude

Sep 4, 2020

NAMI today released a statement on the killing of Daniel Prude from its CEO, Daniel H. Gillison, Jr.:

“The killing of Daniel Prude is yet another harrowing tragedy, but a story not unfamiliar to us. When a loved one is experiencing a mental health emergency, there is often no one to call but the police – 6-10% of all law enforcement encounters involved someone with a serious mental illness.

While calling law enforcement can lead to a safe resolution with properly trained officers, the hard fact remains that, just last year, nearly 1 in 4 people killed by law enforcement had a mental health condition. Layer on to this the dangers for a person of color, especially a Black individual encountering police, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Mental health emergencies deserve a mental health response. In our report, Divert to What? Community Services that Enhance Diversion, we help communities identify opportunities in their mental health ecosystems to divert people with mental illness from the criminal justice system. People in crisis deserve help, not handcuffs.

And, right now, there is legislation moving through Congress that would help fund a three-digit, nationwide mental health crisis hotline, 9-8-8. You don’t have to remember a 10-digit number when you get into a car accident, and you shouldn’t have to memorize one for a mental health emergency, either.

Daniel’s death could have been prevented. That’s why NAMI has been promoting Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) programs for over 30 years and launched Sharing Your Story with Law Enforcement to increase law enforcement understanding of people’s experience with mental illness. NAMI is also advocating for expansion of crisis services that reduce the role of law enforcement in responding to mental health and substance use emergencies.  As I have said before, trained officers can be lifesavers, but they are a reaction to a fundamental flaw in how we respond to crises. We need to change our mindset and refocus on real investment in a truly comprehensive and culturally-appropriate mental health system. We need a system that does not shirk away from the intersection of race, culture, identity and mental health. This is the moment to take action.

NAMI’s hearts are with Daniel’s loved ones and all those who have suffered because of our nation’s lack of a responsible approach to mental health emergencies. We resolve to continue our fight to stop these senseless tragedies and achieve an equitable mental health system.”

Read more: NAMI’s resolution against racism, NAMI’s statement on recent acts of racial injustice and Gillison’s STAT op-ed on diversion. You can also view recent “Ask the Expert” webinars that discuss the intersection of race and mental health.

NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).