Why All Organizations Should Provide Mental Health Training

Posted on September 18, 2013.

In light of what happened this week at the navy yard I hope you'll indulge me and allow me to re-post this blog from back in February.  As I state here, it's important to remember that over 90% of all people with a mental illness are non-violent. But tragedies like this remind us that we need to create awareness and training now!

My nephew lives 3 doors down from the recent murder/suicide in College Park, Maryland.  You really start to think about how these events can be prevented when they hit so close to home.  The student who committed the crime was described by his family as having a mental illness. 

It seems like every other day, we read about another violent attack and there’s often a mental illness involved. But the reality is that 92 to 96 percent of people with a mental illness are not prone to violence. So it’s unlikely that most of us will be confronted with this type of violence in our lives.

That said, one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. So unless you work in an office alone, it’s likely, at least once in your career, you’ve had to work with or manage someone that’s suffering an illness. And it’s not just corporate offices. Educators or anyone who works with the general public also needs to have the knowledge and training to know what to do when dealing with someone with a mental illness.

When I worked in a branch bank, we had a client who had schizophrenia. Up close and personal, this can be a very frightening disease. He wasn’t threatening anyone, but his erratic behavior was so unsettling, we called the police. The image of him being handcuffed and literally dragged across the bank lobby stays with me today. That was 30 years ago.  I wish then that someone had helped me understand what to do and how to deal more effectively with the situation.  He didn’t deserve to be hauled off by the police, but I just didn’t know better.

 It may not be a bad thing that these violent incidents get so much media attention if it alerts the public for the need to training and awareness. You may never have to deal with someone as severely ill as my bank customer, but depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety are more likely what you may encounter.

 If you’re a manager or an educator you should demand that your company, college or school system provide you with the tool you need to recognize red flags and how to deal with them.  Become an advocate at your place of work and help remove the stigma of a disease that 25 percent of the adult population may face every year.