Wundsam, K; Pitschel-Walz, G; Leucht, S; Kissling, W
[Psychiatric patients and relatives instruct German police officers - an anti-stigma project of "BASTA - the alliance for mentally ill people"]
Contact with police officers due to schizophrenia and resort to violence in such interactions is a common occurrence and represents a source for stigmatisation of mentally ill people. Aim of this project was to establish a program for police officers to reduce that stigma. The seminar was developed by a German anti-stigma organisation in cooperation with sociology teachers of the Bavarian police academy. Evaluations focussed on the police officers "social distance" and "negative stereotypes" towards mentally ill people. The personal contact between officers and the referees (patients, relatives, professionals) was the core of the seminar. Results of a debriefing after the pilot-project was overall positive. Evaluations in the renewal years showed significant improvement within the scale "social distance" (p < 0.0001) and amelioration in the stereotype-categories "violence" and "treatability". The need for special training of the police regarding mental illnesses was acknowledged by all participants. Personal contact of police officers with patients and relatives appeared to be important for the efficacy of this seminar and should become a main focus in similar anti-stigma interventions.