Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Mentally Ill and the use of the Taser Gun.

On July 14, 2013 I read an article in my local paper titled: "Suicidal man slices arm and leads police on low-speed chase in Marstons Mills". 

The portion of the article that triggered and angered my was as follows: "Once the man resisted officers who were trying to restrain him until rescue personal could arrive, the officers had to use a Taser to subdue him."  The man was 52 years old with a wound from his palm to his elbow obviously in crisis and he was Tased while awaiting rescue because he resisted the officers restraints.

I sent the following letter to the editor of the paper:

It’s Time for Change

Mary E Munsell


As a person who faces the challenges of living with mental illness I felt the need to comment on Patrick Cassidy’s article; Suicidal man slices arm and leads police on low-speed chase in Marstons Mills.

First of all I wish to state my respect for the police who face many unpredictable situations every day.  Secondly I would like to comment from the point of view as one of the mentally ill population.

Saddened and appalled are the words that comes to mind when police use pain techniques on the mentally ill population.  As a person who has been tased when reaching out for help I know without a shadow of a doubt that it’s time to educate the community, the mental health system and the first responders about the mentally ill during crisis situations.

The mind of a person in crisis is not one of a criminal and shouldn’t be treated as such.  The person those tase guns are pointing at in these circumstances are living trauma, pain and are symptomatic of an illness.  Tase guns are not the answer unless the police or others are in eminent danger. 

I was shot with one of those electric guns in my own apartment with strangers all around me.  I grabbed a simple small palette painting knife as two responders grabbed me from behind.  I grabbed what was in front of me at the time because I was so frightened by being assaulted from behind. Even more traumatized when I was completely subdued and then released because they saw something in my hand.  Only to be horrified when I looked up after being released and pushed back to see a policeman shoot me with his tase gun.

People who are in crisis, living trauma or simply just don’t want to go where the police are told to take them are not subjects to be tased.  There are other solutions and we need to be educated about them before the threshold of what is acceptable lowers even more.

Yes, it’s time for the voice of persons with mental illness to be heard and respected.  It’s time for the community to be educated about mental illness and how to treat the mentally ill.  I know I speak for many when I say “I don’t want to be hurt anymore because I have a mental illness”.

Our voices are a mode of education.  Our side of the stories and experiences need to be told and heard.  We need to be part of the dialogue of change and solutions.  After all, our voice is the one that carriers the intimate knowledge of our illness.

Since my writing was a letter to the editor it had to be reduced to 200 words. The following is the link to the printed letter in the Cape Cod Times:
It's important for people to speak out against things like these happening in the mental health system.
What are your thoughts?
Please comment.

Thank you for reading my post M.E.M 7/20/13