Recently I have seen a meme floating around social media that shows two law enforcement officers smirking and the meme reads “Watching a social worker try to “de-escalate” the “unarmed” 6’3, 280 pound, buck naked psycho who is covered in his own shit and swinging around a metal pole.” This meme has saddened me more and more each time I see it because the people posting it are so ill informed about the certain reality of social workers, direct care staff and mental health professionals all over the world. The truth is that daily this similar situation occurs in mental health and developmental disability centers as well as classrooms across the country and often it is de-escalated with no physical skills required.
What the people posting this do not understand is that when given tools for de-escalation and those tools are practiced and implemented, they are often successful. What the social worker, caregiver and teacher realize is that their approach needs to consider a trauma informed approach to that sort of situation. What the social worker, care giver and teacher know is that those described behaviors are often a communication of unmet needs like hunger or a missed medication. What a social worker, caregiver and teacher understand is the importance of not creating more fear by trying to control and manage but the need to support and empathize while listening to not only the words said but the behavior displayed.
It’s sad too me that the people posting this do not understand or feel for the person displaying these behaviors as a person but are only focused on the behavior. They want it dealt with in a quick and physical way. Fortunately, there are also very good law enforcement officers that understand this as well and do all they can to provide a solution that is not harmful. Mental health issues are real and should not be joked about. A more humane approach is exactly what is needed were we focus on people, not just their behavior.
Finally, thank you to every person who understands the importance of treating people with dignity and respect, even when you are dealing with someone who is not treating you the same. Thank you for going back into work and practicing forgiveness, even after being hit or having your hair pulled. Thank you for practicing self-forgiveness. Understanding that we have not always done things the right way but once we learn… we change. Most importantly, thank you to every person who has dealt with someone who may be covered in filth and whose behavior may be different and even dangerous…. but you step up and still treat them as a human being worthy of respect.
Tim Geels – SVP Corporate Instruction & Implementation