SAN ANTONIO – Cadets with the San Antonio Police Training Academy underwent a rigorous type of training to help them recognize and better serve those with mental illnesses.
Crisis Intervention Training helps officers respond to situations in which someone is suicidal, having a mental health breakdown or having trouble communicating due to special needs.
The training, which was implemented 10 years ago, includes true-to-life scenarios with actors in which cadets are able to put their skills to practice.
"We know that most of the times when they go to calls, they're not going to get the total picture of what they're about to walk into, so if they have a general idea of all the different issues that are out there, then they're going to be better prepared," said Dr. Melissa Graham, a police psychologist.
Graham said officers are often dispatched to a variety of calls and often get little information before they arrive at a scene or location.
"People want to be helped," said Travis Haecker, a cadet undergoing the training. "We don't know all their experiences that they've had. They may have had a bad one, and that's something we have to overcome and leave a lasting, good impression."
Though each real-life call brings a new and different set of circumstances, the cadets said they're walking away better prepared to handle them all.
"Having that patience is really important," said Adam Rule, a San Antonio Police Department Cadet. "I would absolutely encourage as many people as possible to get educated on different kinds of mental illnesses, and so that people can understand that they are a part of our community, and there's no reason to treat them any differently."
In May, a San Antonio family spoke to KSAT about their efforts to work with law enforcement about how to better communicate with drivers who have a speech impediment.