Every Life Matters

You’ve probably heard the phrase Life Matters.

In the wake of the recent shootings, this phrase has expanded to reflect racial, ethnic, cultural, occupational, and spiritual groupings. You may have seen, heard, or chanted Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, A Child’s Life Matters, Families Matter, You Matter, I Matter.

I believe that we all matter.

And to further that point, every life matters.

I’ve been trying to process all of the tragedies we’re facing as a nation and around the world. And as a behavioral health intervention specialist, I’ve been thinking in particular of the shootings in Florida, and the Darnell Thompson and Christy Sheats tragedies. I’ve been thinking of the many losses that have to do with health, and how we approach health as a culture.

Many of us work very hard to make a living, earn a paycheck, improve our lives, and improve the lives of our families. Some of us work in behavioral health. And at times many of us, no matter where we work, might have to care for a family member who has a mental illness.

As we do the best we can to provide the necessary care, at times with limited resources and assistance, it can become more and more apparent that additional support, better access to care, better coordination of care, better communication, and more opportunity to effectively navigate the needed services can make all the difference in the world.

Some of us have come to know the hardships, up close and personal, when we know these types of responsibilities.

And we know that educating the public is critical so that they have a better understanding of the profound effect mental illness has, not just on a family but on society as well.

In addition to needing more education, we as a society must change the slow status quo and not delay access to those in need of mental health services, so that their lives do not tragically impact others. Because while mental illness and violence do not go hand in hand as often as we think, on occasion they do—particularly when someone with mental illness is apprehended by someone who does not know how to best approach the situation.

But we cannot ignore the warning signs of mental illness any more.

To do so, as evidenced by recent events, can put us or others in harm’s way.

We must educate, prepare, and train for possible crisis situations, allowing our readiness to de-escalate a situation and/or serve as a deterrent. We must continue these initiatives because we care, because our humanity tells us it’s the right thing to do, and because every life matters.

In preparing a person with a mental illness to reach their potential and optimum level of functioning, it’s inevitable that they will have contact with other people. We also know that good times and difficult times can and will occur. We have a moral responsibility to help those in need of services connect with those services.

When experiencing a crisis moment with someone who has a mental health condition, education and relationships are often key factors in reaching resolution.

The ability to listen, understand, exchange information, and communicate well before, during, and after a crisis is an invaluable skill.

Many of the recent shootings have highlighted the need for this kind of skilled crisis de-escalation training. They have highlighted the need for crisis response teams, tactics, and strategies that can lead to effective crisis containment. They have highlighted the need for Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security℠ for everyone because every life matters.

Support and consideration must always be afforded to any individual experiencing a crisis—whether they’re a staff member or a service user, because every life matters.

Now is the time.

Together we can and must peaceably strengthen and rebuild our trust in the workers and officials within our communities. We must accept the challenges that a difference of opinion can bring. We must learn to accept each of our unique qualities, visual appearances, and different practices—whether common or uncommon. We must create a place where we can all come together and be seen, heard, accepted, and respected. We must value and embrace all that is not the same, because that is what allows each of us to flourish and become more than what we were, better than what we are now, and even greater than what we envision ourselves and our future to be.

This is the one true gift that can be realized when every life matters.

DC-CI.JPGWith over 30 years of experience at the Arizona State Hospital in Phoenix, D.C. Foster is a Behavioral Health Intervention Specialist and Master Level CPI Instructor. D.C. works with individuals identified as Serious Mental Illness (SMI), Forensic, and Sexually Violent Persons (SVP). Since 2012, he has been using CPI training to create a more person-centered, trauma-informed, recovery-oriented therapeutic environment for patients. D.C. is also a leading member in the CPI Instructor Community, where he exchanges training strategies and professional development techniques with his fellow Instructors.

Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CPI or other organizations.
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About the Author

“Every individual on this earth deserves to be treated with compassion, understanding, and the right to keep their dignity intact. This can be difficult to honor at times when someone loses control of their behavior, but that’s where Rational Detachment and not taking it personally really kicks in. What has helped me be able to do this well goes back to the first day I was introduced to Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training. I was a participant before becoming a Certified Instructor (and before working for CPI), and over the years I have had so many opportunities to use what I learned way back then. Today, I live the skills automatically. It’s an honor to have been given those skills to live the philosophy of treating others the way I want to be treated.”