Police or Paramedics: Who Are Better In Dealing With Psychiatric Crises?


While coming home in the car a while ago, I witnessed a scene outside a shop where two paramedics were painstakingly dealing with a man who was obviously mentally distressed. I only caught a brief glimpse of it all but it took me back to some experiences, some thoughts and discussions I have had with other people who have a veritable cornucopia of disorders. The paramedics were pleading with the man to get in to the ambulance repeatedly or else they would need to call the police.

Now I am not prone to generalizations and am always willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt but in answer to the question above: Paramedics, absolutely.

In various times of crisis, hospitalization etc…, I have dealt with both individuals in these professions. I have met some decent coppers but at best, they have just done what was needed (save one man) without a modicum of care. The paramedics, on the other hand, have always been the most caring and least judgmental of persons and have always taken such good care of me. Some have even had great senses of humour too.

My most terrrifying experience with the police happened one night after speaking long distance to a friend of mine. I was rather down and had been drinking (or course) and was merely venting. Or so I had thought? My friend had apparently become quite concerned and called 911. As I was getting ready to pad off to bed, there was a knock at the door. I had no idea who it could be; it was quite late (or early…perhaps 0100hrs?) I answered the door and there stood five (yes five) police officers.

Alright. I’m not exactly up on police protocol but I don’t think they send that many officers to a domestic disturbance call. And I’ve never worked as a 911 dispatch operator either but I would assume that they would have asked some pertinent questions like if I was alone in the house?

They asked if they could come in. I was completely stunned. What do you say with five police officers standing in front of you, “No?” So I invited them in and they told me that they had received a call from “a friend” and that I “might be suicidal.” I told them that I was not and that I was just getting ready to go to bed. They told me that I would have to come with them to the hospital. I looked at one of the officers who was casually sifting through my mail and some of my writing. I became agitated. I told him to put all of those things down and that he had no right to look at them! I again insisted that I was fine and I needed to go to bed as I had to go to work in the morning! I didn’t need to go to the hospital! I told them that this was just a misunderstanding!

At this point, they became increasingly more forceful in their demands and I became more agitated and not combatitive but certainly argumentative. A female officer stepped right up to me, almost into me and threatened me with arrest if I didn’t go with them. That was it. No matter how hard I tried to convince them, I couldn’t compete with that.

They physically grabbed me by the arm and I told them to let me go as I wanted to put my shoes on. They told me there was no time for that so I ended up leaving the house with one bloody shoe on. Fantastic. They threw me into the back of one of the cruisers (they all still had their lights flashing!) and off we went.

My poor landlords. They were a great couple and didn’t even know what to do. They just hid upstairs–I had some serious apologizing to do later.

So we get to the hospital and I am fuming. I had been an inpatient there before and was seeing a psychiatrist there. I explained rather loudly to anyone who would listen how grand a mistake that this was and that I positively needed to get back home to get at least some sleep in order to get to work. My job really depended on it at the time! I could not afford to miss work! I even demanded that they call my psychiatrist at home, wake him up and he would deem me fine. I’m surprised after all the fuss I made they actually didn’t hospitalize me. But knowing the hospital as well as I did and knowing I didn’t need to be hospitalized I managed to get out of there as the sun was beginning to come up.

By that time, four of the officers had left and one stayed behind to wait with me. He drove me home. I gave him a little piece of my mind on they way and told him that police officers should treat people under such circumstances with a little more decency and respect. I don’t know if it made an impact as he simply told me, “We’re just doing our job.”


  1. The Angry Medic

    I’m sorry this had to happen to you, and that it went the way it did, but I have to say that I’m proud the police went to so much trouble to try and rescue you. I read Chrysalis Angel’s comment a few posts ago about how they broke down the door of one of her sisters to rescue her from pill overdose, and it makes me feel warm to know there are caring policemen out there. They were, after all, just looking out for you. And sometimes you make me worried that you don’t take good enough care of yourself, PA.

    Re your comment on my blog: Thanks for stopping by! Nowhere near as prolific as your blog, but hey, I’m just a medstudent. And once a nurse, always a nurse…

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  2. Patient Anonymous

    Hi angry medic, yes, as I stated in my post I won’t sink to generalities and I’m sure that there are? police out there that adept at dealing with psych crises but I just think that paramedics are better equipped. However, you do make a valid point in that if the situation warrants it, better to have someone there from tiered response than no one. It’s just that in my example, I felt violated and harrassed and there was no cause. I understand that they had a “job to do” but it was not handled in the right way as far as I was concerned. Not at all.

    I have had other discussions with other psych patients and they have all had “disastrous” altercations with police officers but have all also been treated much better by paramedics.

    You are absolutely right that I do not take good enough care of myself. Yikes. Is my blog that transparent? Or are you just very intuitive? If it’s the latter than perhaps you will make a fine doctor, indeed!

    And excuse me. Prolific? I had to clean my eyeglasses to re-read your comment several times. Well, simply because I post frequently doesn’t mean it’s any good. Quantity does not mean quality.

    Nonetheless, considering your care and compliment, consider yourself blogrolled you silly, silly man.

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  3. Michelle

    I have to agree with you PA. I have had some bad experiences with police officers as a psychiatric patient.

    Although I do understand that the officers’ job is to just assure physical safety it is still aggravating when you are treated with the same amount of respect that they would show to a criminal.

    I am in no way saying that all police officers do it, nor am I even saying that those officers that act like that are necessarily bad cops. I just think that their training and focus does not include the proper way of dealing with people outside of a crime situation.

    I am trying very hard not to sound like I am bashing the police so I will fall back on the old “some of my best friends are ____” route and state that my grandfather is a retired police officer. Even he however has agreed that the type of person that is attracted to the occupation of being a cop is not necessarily the type of person that is best at handling sensitive situations.

    Someone that decides they want to be a cop is more likely to be a person that craves action or power. Someone that decides to be a paramedic would be much more likely to be someone that is attracted to caring for people.

    I am not making judgements about either personality or profession as both types and jobs are very needed. I just feel that not only are the paramedics better equipped through training to deal with psychiatric patients but perhaps also better equipped through personality.

    Wow…sorry for the babbling but apparently you touched on a sore spot with me.

    Take care
    ~Michelle

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  4. Patient Anonymous

    Hi michelle, thank you for your, what I feel, insightful and highly personal comment. I could not agree with you more. You brought up some other points that I also wanted to touch upon but as my post was growing longer and I strictly wanted to keep it within the realm of my personal experience only, I chose to leave those opinions out.

    I’m not a “cop-basher” either. I’m not an “anyone basher.” Discrimination and insensitivity drives me over the edge!

    We need police officers very much to maintain order in society. But that does not give them the right to, in any way, abuse the power that is given to them in their roles. This could be said for many other professions as well but this, for the moment, is about the police.

    I’d better stop now before I launch into full on rant mode *grin*

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  5. wolfbaby

    Hmmm I actually think it depends on the type of police officer you get to deal with, that has alot to do with it. Now beat cops are a little rough around the edges I think, but if you have to deal with any cop the best I have ever had to deal with were from the detectives that handle sexual assult cases. They generally have a very gentle way about them, though I kinda think they have to cause of there department.

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  6. Patient Anonymous

    Hi wolfbaby, yes a good distinction there too. Perhaps there is a difference between “detectives” who specialize in certain areas such as that, because they would (hopefully) receive more training to deal with areas that are obviously more sensitive

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  7. I have never seen the police ‘in action’ at an incident like this, but I have seen paramedics and I was humbled by their efforts to balance the patients needs with the patients rights.
    Maybe it is to do with what police V paramedics deal with every day, is it their experience of this issue that gives them
    the edge?
    If you think you may be on the Autistic spectrum it would be highly likely that you would be VERY unhappy to have someone step ‘into’ you; to get into your space, but then again would any of us be happy?

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  8. Hello again, uphilldowndale. Again, I think it has a lot to do with the differences in training and also situation as some of the commenters mentioned above. I could have gotten into that but as stated, my post was growing long. I probably should have said this. In retrospect, it might have tied it all together better.

    Police are better trained at dealing with broken laws; paramedics are better dealing with “broken” people.

    I’m a bit at odds whether I am really on the Spectrum or not. I actually don’t think I am and I am highly doubtful that any professional would be able to adequately diagnose me so. The “problem” might be that I already have too many co-existing disorders that look too much or can mimic Aspergers and I am extremely high functioning. And if any Aspergian (term from the community haha) traits even arise they are transient. If anything, I may have looked more like an Aspie kid with some OCD-ness going on but that has changed. Now it’s definitely ADD which can also look like Aspergers and complete Bipolar which also looks a lot like ADD. Yes, confusing.

    Also, Aspergers as a kid can look very different than Autism as there is no language delay, development is “normal”…some even still debate whether or not it should be placed on the Spectrum–I think it should.

    But I don’t really stim (that’s kind of a “problem?”) except for something that I learned that is more of an OCD thing. But I can rock back and forth when anxious (a partial stim?) I do lose eye contact when overstimulated…that’s pretty typical for Spectrum behaviour… So cheese and rice! Who knows?!

    At this point, I don’t even care anymore…it’s not like there is any “treatment” for it…it’s just who you are. And I know who I am already (I’m crazy haha!)…I have enough going on with my disorders already!

    But you are right, I do have a huge problem with people invading my “personal space” unless I know them. And even then, I have to know them well? Or not? Or something? You see, again, transient. I suppose it all comes down to trusting them.

    I should probably remove that portion from my “About” page? It may just confuse people…it rather confuses me!

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  1. 1 Police Brutality Opposed to Paramedic Wisdom « Patient Anonymous: Just Another Head Case

    […] I begin, I strongly suggest you read something I wrote back in 1997.  In fact, I will go almost as far as to demand  you to read it.  Trust me.  It will only add […]

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