Beyond Behaviors: Understanding and Supporting the Mental Health Needs of the Community

Mar 28, 2019 | by Kristal Knudtson

Behaviors of individuals can be situational or ongoing.  Sometimes people have stressors happen in their life that become so overwhelming that they tend to lose focus on what options might be out there.  This could put the person in a very vulnerable position.  At the same time, there are people who are truly struggling with an ongoing mental illness. 

Ignacio Enriquez Jr., MSE, LPC-IT, Behavioral Health Officer from the Appleton Police Department shared some information from his experience.  Srgt. Enriquez moved from California to Appleton back in January 2008.  He has a Law Enforcement and Counseling Degree.  He also has his Masters in Counseling. This dynamite combination makes him a stellar Officer and peer, so that he can educate and inform others on Mental Health Illnesses.

The Salvation Army feels honored to get time from Srgt. Enriquez to do an interview where he answered a few questions on Mental Health and the Fox Cities Community:

As a Behavior Health Officer, can you explain how you are involved with Mental Health situations?

Srgt. Enriquez: “If someone is struggling with a Mental Health ongoing crisis, I will respond to the scene and do an on field assessment – including safety planning, connecting them with Outagamie Mental Health, or linking them with others that may be involved with them.”

“I also do a proactive response.  For example, if an officer makes contact with an individual that is struggling with Mental Health or AOD, or both, I will get a referral and will be asked to make contact with this individual.  I will then explore what is going on that can be helpful for their own well-being.”

Is there a perception that Mental Health = instability?

Srgt. Enriquez: “Yes. At times, we tell people who we see are struggling, go get connected with mental health services.  That in itself is a courageous thing to do.  The idea of asking for help becomes stressful enough.  We live in a society as a whole.  Unfortunately, asking for help is shown as a weakness in our culture, so you become self-reliant.”

What do you wish society knew about Mental Health?

Srgt. Enriquez: “We need the stigma for Mental Health to be redirected. If we can do that, I think our community can become more nurturing, and prosper.  For example, if I sustain a broken arm I will want to take care of that, and that’s okay.  Yet when it comes to a period in our lives where we are stressed out or struggling with Mental Illness, it’s almost like that’s not okay for you to seek services. I challenge all of us to rethink that. We can challenge people to feel okay to talk and to get healthy.”

Enriquez continues, “There is a lot of work that can be done around the topic of Mental Health.  We try to take away some of that power from certain mental health concerns.  For example, someone who has significant anxiety, it might not be extreme where it is getting in the way of their day, so it is seen as JUST anxiety. It is not a diagnosis of other disorders such as bipolar or schizophrenia that gets more hype, so sometimes we take away the significance of that individual.”

Enriquez wants to share, “No matter if it’s a diagnosis or not, if it is getting in the way of your daily life, it needs to be addressed.  If you tell me that you are having a tough time, then let’s sit down and talk about it.  I won’t be the person to say, that’s just you, and you figure it out.”

How do you work with The Salvation Army – Fox Cities?

Srgt. Enriquez: “If an individual has received a city summons with city Attorney or court commissioner’s office, we acknowledge that maybe something else is going on.  Therefore, we meet with these individuals to get the whole story.  At those moments, we figure out that the person might be struggling with homelessness, financials, transportation, addiction, or things like that. Therefore, we work with outside resources, like Salvation Army. Conversations about the individuals’ case management can then be used during a review hearing in court.”

Enriquez explains in more detail, “We look at each person’s situation holistically.  Our intention is to get the people in a better place, mentally and physically, in their journey.  At the same time, they are addressing the expectations of the ordinance of the city and abiding by the courts.”

Do you do any trainings in the community?

Srgt. Enriquez: “I have collaborated with NAMI on crisis de-escalation and other providers in the community.  The trainings I do talk about pieces on self-awareness specific to individuals with Mental Illnesses. De-escalation is an ongoing conversation on how to communicate with others; how to be safe and still be empathetic to listen to a person in a way that maybe I didn’t consider before.”

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