I was reading a very interesting article for a paper I am writing for my law class on police interactions with those experiencing mental illness. The article is from Great Britain and is in a journal called Nursing Standard. It is about a nurse, Richard Harwin, who spent five years as a police constable. He has also worked in a medium secure unit and in forensic research at a hospital. Throughout these different jobs he recognized the need and importance of having police officers who are properly prepared and trained to interact with populations with mental illness. He is now a mental health intervention officer with the Metropolitan Police and has set up regular trainings with police officers and developed important partnerships with community mental health agencies so that they may work collaboratively with the police.
This sounds great! I am very excited to use it for my paper. But a particular quote from Mr. Harwin stood out to me:
“A police uniform can act like a red rag to a bull to someone who is mentally ill.”
I get it. I think I get it. Mr. Harwin is pointing out sensitive a situation may be when police are called and someone with a mental illness is involved. Not to mention the fact that most people in general are not thrilled to deal with police let alone someone who may be regularly misunderstood and abused by those in authority. That said…the analogy struck a cord with me. It could be because of this blog and project but comparing someone with a mental illness to a bull, a creature that is often associated with uncontrolled aggression.
It is worth noting that according to “Ask Yahoo!” bulls are colorblind and the red cape is more of a theatrical tradition. It points out that it is all about breeding a bull to enhance or exploit its aggression. I’m sure Mr. Harwin did not put this much thought into what was most likely an off-hand remark.
But it struck a cord with me…
Citation for the article:
Sadler, C. (2009). A force for good. Nursing Standard, 24(15-17), 18-19.