Crisis Intervention Training…

Or, C.I.T. For short is a program I have been involved with for something like five years now. I am currently a member of Crisis Intervention International, and as I see it, it is a wonderful thing that I wish I had known about years ago. I’m not any kind of spokesman or PR person for them, but I do give presentations for them several times a year for two different regions, Montgomery County, MD and Southern MD. (They group the four southernmost counties into one training class.)

CIT has several aspects to it, and I can only speak to what I do for them, which is what I wanted to write about today. My job is to tell my stories of what it is like to be mentally ill and have run ins with the long arm of the law. I would like to point out in the beginning that I have never been to jail, or prison; the time I have spent in mental hospitals was all relatively voluntary, and most of my run ins with the law have been from traffic violations and/or being in the wrong place at the wrong time (Except that one time I decided to go rock climbing in Georgetown, but that’s a tale for another time)

It all started when I went in to do my interview to become a facilitator for NAMI. They do an interview to make sure that you can talk and be coherent for a bit, and my interview with my program manager Nicole was filled with laughter, fun and stories, soooooooo. Many. Stories. After telling a few tales of my more certifiable moments, Nicole asked me if I had ever been on the wrong side of the law and been detained. I explained my situation and she asked if I would be willing to talk to a roomful of officers about it. After making sure that I wouldn’t be in trouble for telling any of the questionable acts I had done, I said why not, let’s give it a try, and within a few weeks, I was presenting to Montgomery County officers about my experience.

My first experience speaking to the officers was just shy of terrifying. Confessing to some minor crimes to a room full of officers with no real training as to what I was supposed to say or do was an exercise in nightmare fuel. Forget giving a speech to your high school class without any pants on, try telling a room full of officers what you thought their colleagues got right, and what they definitely got wrong while never quite being sure if they were laughing with you or at you. But it was enjoyable to me. I love holding the attention of a roomful of strangers, and I live to be one of the smartest guys in the room; And who knows more about me being detained on the side of a major thoroughfare the day before my wedding than me? So, I enjoyed it, I got a bunch of laughs and I was asked back. Over and over again until they didn’t bother sending anyone else. It used to be that my program manager, a parent of a mentally ill person and I would go to do Montgomery County. Now they just have me play all the parts. Which is really cool, I think.

Not too long after doing my first CIT for Montgomery County, I was driving to my therapist appointment when I got a call from NAMI Md, a step up the ladder from NAMI Montgomery County. They told me that one of the people who was supposed to speak at the Statewide convention had had to drop out at the last minute and wanted to know if I had any interest in taking over for them. I said sure, it would be fun. I ended up speaking fairly early on the first day, doing one of my In Our Own Voices presentations and for the rest of the three day conference I was being stopped and greeted by people who had either seen me speak or heard from others about me speaking, all of them congratulating me on the best presentation of the conference. That was a real shot in the arm, I still have my badge from that conference hanging on my wall. I was and still am so proud of doing that. But it led to me being offered the chance of doing CIT for southern MD.

Again, the first one was terrifying. I didn’t know where I was going, I just knew it was in California, MD. So I had to get invited back so I could listen to “Goin Back To Cali” by LL Cool J as loud as possible on my next outing. They put me up in a decent hotel for a night so I could be there on time in the morning, and the next day I was a bit taken aback. Half the room was all the stereotypical rural police officers with broad shoulders, cop ‘staches and disapproving looks when I started. On the other side of the room was mostly newer recruits and the women officers. But once I got going, they were (mostly) all into it, lots of the men taking notes as well, laughing at my jokes. And afterwards there was a line of officers who wanted to tell me their stories and ask me if they had done the right thing. It was un-fucking-believable! Truly an awesome experience.

So, I’m hooked. I love this part of the job. I really enjoy going places, staying in a hotel, taking in the local life and then giving a presentation that makes me feel spectacular and hopefully helps at least one person. The photo at the top shows the view from where I am sitting typing up this entry. Hopefully it can shed some light on some of the perks of my job.

I have also worked as a field rep for Invisible records and Pigface since the mid-90’s. Martin Atkins has been a bit of hero since I first heard him play on a Killing Joke album as a teenager, and over time I would say we have become at least a bit better than acquaintances over the years. I want to lay the groundwork for something here. I am still shocked every time he remembers who I am, even after all these years. So on the last Pigface tour I was sitting outside of the venue coordinating between Martin on the tour bus, Molly at the home office and the venue itself, making sure everything is going relatively as planned. During a short break I checked my email on my phone and saw that I had gotten on an email chain that included my contact at southern MD CIT. When I opened the email it detailed a story an officer had sent in about how the officer was able to talk a subject down and get them to a mental health center so they could get the help they needed. Nobody was hurt, and the subject was back on medication all thanks to the CIT training the officer had gotten and in particular the presentation I had given.

That is the kind of thing that makes you think you might be doing something right.

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