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Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department: ‘We’re Not Untouchable’

Maj. Jim Cleek, commander of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) Training Bureau, found out his son was living with bipolar disorder just before he took his first Youth Mental Health First Aid training class. The 5-step action plan he learned gave him confidence to assess, support and provide support to people affected by mental illnesses – most notably with his family and son.

His interest in mental health intensified by his son’s diagnosis and training in Youth Mental Health First Aid. Soon after, Maj. Cleek traveled to the St. Louis County Police Department to participate in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety with the Metro-area’s Crisis Intervention Training officers. He returned to Indianapolis with an increased drive to bring the training to his department.

Maj. Cleek is one of the reasons the IMPD was among the first to take the pledge of the International Association of Chiefs of Police One Mind Campaign, an initiative to enhance interactions between police officers and people living with mental illnesses and address the overall mental health of all officers. Among the four objectives included in the pledge is training 100 percent of its sworn officers in Mental Health First Aid. More than 180 other law enforcement agencies from across the country have taken the pledge.

“IMPD stands firm for those who are experiencing these issues and is taking significant steps through our mental health initiatives to save lives and improve the overall quality of life within the community,” said Maj. Cleek.

To date, the IMPD has trained more than 1,000 officers in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety. By the end of 2017, they will have trained 100 percent of their officers in operations, including Homeland Security, K9, SWAT and traffic officers, along with three recruit classes and the entire IMPD Training Academy staff.

“Much needed,” “very impactful” and “increased my knowledge and awareness of mental health challenges both personally and professionally” are only a few of the words of praise Maj. Cleek received from his Mental Health First Aid trainees. A common theme he sees in this praise is appreciation for the personal aspect that Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety so thoughtfully addresses.

“Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety increases self-awareness and gives people the opportunity to change people’s mindsets whether it’s at home, at work, with colleagues, etc.,” said Maj. Cleek. “The more we become aware of these signs and symptoms, the more we can better communicate with those experiencing a crisis situation.”

Maj. Cleek believes everyone has been or will be touched by mental illness in some way, and that someday Mental Health First Aid training, just like CPR, will provide a plan – a plan for any person, regardless of position or role, to help someone who often cannot help themselves. Ultimately, the hope is to save lives, relationships and to improve the overall quality of life for people within the community.

He also sees the officer wellness component as a critical way to help break down stigma, as it empowers officers to reach out for help for both themselves and fellow officers.

“We’re not untouchable,” he said. “We’re affected by the same things our citizens are, and Mental Health First Aid is just one more valuable tool in the toolbox of a police officer.”

Major Jim Cleek is a 27-year veteran of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and certified Instructor for Mental Health First Aid.