When you encounter a subject who is mentally ill, remember that his bizarre behavior is due to hearing voices in his head and being very frightened. He will usually only be violent if he feels threatened or cornered. The guidelines below will help you to defuse potentially volatile situations.

• Follow your safety procedures
• Approach the subject slowly
• Be calm and confident
• Give him space, Don't corner
• Don't move suddenly
• Give your first name
• Ask for the subject's name until he gives it
• Use his name repeatedly
• Be patient
• Try to make eye contact

Remember there is a voice in his head threatening him and telling him to do things.
• He may be slow to respond
• Don't be offended by strong language
• Don't be angered by his comments
• Don't challenge bizarre ideas

The subject's answers may not make sense. It will take time to defuse the subject. Hurrying the subject will threaten or provoke him

• Speak slowly
• Ask short direct questions
• Repeat yourself
• Reassure him when he is frightened or angry
• Ask if he takes medication

(Information provided from a card presented to police officers in the Los Angeles area by the Mental Illness and Law Enforcement Systems and Pacific Clinics, 1994)

PolicePsych is a trademark of Susan Saxe-Clifford, Ph.D.,ABPP, APC. Copyright 2015
[Susan Saxe-Clifford, Ph.D. APC]. All rights reserved.