Suicides and mental health calls are up in the region

GLASGOW, Ky. – Crime statistics earlier this week suggested violent crime in southern Kentucky is mostly holding steady.

But News 40 discovered one troubling trend that was not obvious when the information was first released.

It’s something that is not talked about openly.

Officers are having to respond to mental health issues more now than ever before.

In Bowling Green, police spend 400-hours a month on mental health calls.

Other counties are spending money on overtime for their officers for the same reason.

When a call comes in about a suicidal person that is a danger to themselves and police respond, what happens next?

For Glasgow police, they show up at the scene, assess the situation, and oftentimes take the person in crisis to Life Skills or Western State Hospital in Hopkinsville.

That involves driving the person there, waiting for intake and then returning to Glasgow.

Sergeant Aaron Cowan, a Glasgow police officer says this can take an average of about a half of a shift for an officer and these trips are being made almost every single day.

“We want to serve our community, but sometimes it can be taxing on our agency. It can prevent our officers from being on patrol and carrying out those duties,” said Cowan.

The issue is not just one of how many officers are on the street, but also the emotional impact it has on officers who meet someone in crisis.

“It’s a difficult position to be in. As a public servant, you want to be able to help everyone. A lot of the individuals that we see, you know, we see them quite often,” said Cowan.

In fact, just this year, Glasgow has had 242 transports already and have responded to 169 calls of someone attempting or threatening suicide.

According to the Warren County Coroner’s yearly report, the county has had a steadily increasing number of suicides over the past three years. This year’s numbers have not yet been completed.

Melanie Watts, director of community relations for Life Skills says the behavioral health center works hard to help people in crisis as well, but Kentucky has strict laws about when they can force someone to stay in treatment and when they must be released, so people don’t always agree to the treatment that they need.

“There’s a lot to meet criteria to take someone’s civil liberties away and so just because someone has suicidal ideations at that moment doesn’t meant that they are suicidal 24 hours later,” said Watt.

Watts said her time as a police officer years ago, mental health wasn’t talked about like it is today, and she’s glad to see a change.

“There was such as stigma that you don’t talk about it. If you had children with mental health issues you didn’t speak of it. It didn’t exist. And now there are just so many people that are willing to wrap there arms around you and give you the help that you need,” said Watt.