Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Questions (586)

Mick Barry


586. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Justice the training undertaken by members of An Garda Síochána who are armed in dealing with persons facing mental health emergencies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5657/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for carrying on and managing and controlling generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochána. As Minister, I have no responsibility for these matters

I am informed by the Garda authorities that training with regard to dealing with persons facing mental health emergencies is given to all Armed Support Units during their basic training. I am assured that this is a very detailed course on dealing with Hostage/Barricade/Suicide incidents and, by their very nature, the vast majority of which involve people experiencing mental health emergencies. This training is in co-operation with the Central Mental Hospital.

I am further assured that detailed training in dealing with situations of mental health emergencies is provided to all members of An Garda Síochána, including for those who are armed, as outlined as follows.

BA in Applied Policing

Garda Trainees during a Mental Health Training Module must research the area of mental health and how the Gardaí will deal with the potential challenges faced when presented with an individual possibly suffering from a mental illnesses.

Since 2014, the HSE (National Office for Suicide Prevention) has been a stakeholder in providing training to Trainee Gardaí.  Trainee Gardaí undertake the two day internationally recognised ASIST workshop (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training), which is co-delivered with the HSE. The ASIST workshop is a suicide first aid programme which equips trainees with the skills required to discuss suicide with a person at risk and to make an intervention to reduce the immediate risk of suicide. During the two-day workshop, trainees have the opportunity to practice making an intervention with a person at risk of suicide through various role plays. 

Following this workshop, trainees also study legislation on the Mental Health Act 2001 and the procedures that are required if Gardaí invoke their powers.

In addition, Garda Trainees participate in workshops during which they examine the area of vulnerability and minority groups and engage in a summative assessment whereby the trainees must engage in research regarding vulnerabilities amongst minority societal groupings.

The session culminates with the trainees making a presentation on the particular group which they have researched.

Sworn Members

All sworn members were also Trainee Gardaí and have undergone the Foundation Training Programme.  In addition, as sworn members, they received training in relation to Interviewing Techniques which involve identifying and managing interviewee vulnerability.  As part of the interviewee vulnerability session, information is provided regarding identifying mental health and the implications of associated behaviours, depression, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia and strategies on how the interviewer can recognize potential issues and interact with such individuals.

As part of Custody Management training, the following modules are included for the management of mental health patients as prisoners:

- Mental Health,

- Self-Harm, and

- Excited Delirium, Drug and Alcohol abuse.

Also included in the training is an operational application of prisoner management (scenario based training).  There is a focus on subjects with mental health issues in these scenarios.

Continuous Professional Development

As part of the Continuous Professional Development Core Programme for operational members, An Garda Síochána has provided training on Mental Illness Awareness in keeping with the Mental Health Act 2001.  The programme also covered areas of the types of mental illness, Garda powers and procedures and transportation of persons with a mental illness.