Recently, 17 Sheriff’s Office dispatchers learned about the country’s best strategies for handling 911 callers who are at risk of suicide or other mental illness crisis.
Volusia County 911 Operators Trained to Become more Aware of Mental Health
The training was a priority for Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who sat in on portions of the class and has additional sessions scheduled for the future. The state-of-the-art course, called Emergency Mental Health Dispatching (EMHD), is geared toward helping 911 telecommunicators boost their confidence to help better diffuse crisis situations and keep first responders safer in the field, Communications Director Jim Soukup said. “When you train people to that level, it just helps everybody.”
Within the next few months, all dispatchers will receive this intensive training – about 135 people. In addition, a yearly refresher course will be offered. Jim Marshall, co-founder and director of the 911 Training Institute in Michigan, taught the three-day course at the Communications Center on Tiger Bay Road in Daytona Beach. Marshall is a longtime mental health professional who combines the science of psychology with the role of the 911 dispatcher in his training.
The course helps dispatchers understand more about mental illness and factors that drive suicide. And, it includes teaching dispatchers strategies to excel at the job, decrease anxiety and promote good health.
When asked how they benefited from the class, students said they became more aware of underlying issues callers might be experiencing – physically or mentally. A caller might sound intoxicated on the phone, but actually might be experiencing a stroke or diabetic issue, for example.