Thursday, March 06, 2014

Lent & the Choices of Power

In recent months we have heard a fair amount about the forceful and tragic ways in which police have responded to individuals with mental health issues. None of us envies the role of police officers in demanding situations but most of us hope that lethal force will be an option of last resort after exhausting other possibilities.

Yesterday an elderly woman was dropped by taxi at the door of Bridge St. church and our administrator was suddenly dealing with a person whose mental health issues were obvious. She wasn't aggressive but she was loud and delusional. She wanted help, but didn't like the options presented to her. Carol was incredibly patient seeking help which various agencies couldn't offer or the woman wouldn't accept. Eventually the police were called and responded. The two young officers were also patient and kind with a person who swung between despair and verbal aggression. Eventually I convinced her that the officers would get her help at the hospital and they promised that they wouldn't leave her side until she received it.

We had a similar incident with a young woman who came to a concert at Bridge St. at Christmas. She too was delusional and eventually we called the police after exhausting the alternatives. Those two officers were young as well, and they too talked her through the possibilities until she went with them willingly.

I wrote a letter to the police department to thank these officers for the way in which they responded in both instances.

I emerged from my study to respond yesterday as I plugged away at my message for the first Sunday in Lent. We will ponder Jesus' wilderness sojourn and his choice not to give in to the temptations of power, which is such an important theme in our world today.

It occurred to me that all four officers who responded to these two women have been given authority and power in our society but chose a more helpful and non-confrontational approach than what was available to them. I was very impressed.



roger said...

I continue to hope that more resources are put into mental health issues. Whether it's delusions, bipolar disorder, suicide or any other serious issue, many millions are affected. A friend of a friend just had her teenager take his own life.

When I worked out west, whether it was on the highways or in the city, I was struck by the number of people I had to take to the hospital who were a danger to themselves or others.

Mental illness needs to be viewed in the same way as physical illness.

I'm glad the officers you mentioned treated the individuals with dignity. Nothing less would be acceptable.

John crawford said...

the important thing here is that this person was dealt with dignity. working for the fire service we seem to be on the front line and usually are the first person to deal with them. Deal with them isnt a correct word it to listen with them , cry with them , hold there hands listen to there story, laugh with them. My position as a alarm Room operator we get calls from these people each and every day and its a fine line to read between the lines to actually figure if they are in trouble or where they are and to get them help. All we can do is listen. I remember when the first lady came to the church during the concert and as i sat in the choir it was evident it was a difficult situation happening. But God was there to listen and cry and hold the hand and get the person the help they needed