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 Mental Health in Southwestern Pennsylvania

Working with the Media:
For media professionals, law enforcement officers can provide valuable information for reporting on mental health issues and understanding the facts about a crime or disturbance.

When discussing a crime with a member of the media remember these tips to encourage accurate reporting:
  • Do not speculate about mental illness as a possible cause unless it has been reported to you by a reputable source. 
  • If mental illness is involved, try to direct the reporter to a reputable source for comment and additional details.
  • In your comments, try to avoid stigmatizing or insensitive language like 'gone crazy' or 'lost it'.
Tips for the Law Enforcement Community

Responding to Victims with
Mental Illness

Anyone who is the victim of a crime may be traumatized and experience the victimization as a crisis. But for people with a mental illness, this crisis may be experienced more profoundly. The following guidelines can assist law enforcement in better responding to crime victims who have a mental illness.
  • Approach victims in a calm, nonthreatening, and reassuring manner. Victims may be overwhelmed by delusions, paranoia, or hallucinations. They may be afraid of you or feel threatened by you. Introduce yourself personally by your name, then your rank and agency. Make victims feel that they are in control of the situation. 
  • Determine whether victims have a family member, guardian, or mental health service provider who helps them with daily living. If they do, contact that person immediately. Remember that these people could themselves be the offenders, or may try to protect the offenders. 
  • Contact the local mental health crisis center immediately if victims are extremely agitated, distracted, uncommunicative, or displaying inappropriate emotional responses. Victims may be experiencing a psychological crisis. 
  • Ask victims if they are taking any medications and, if so, the types prescribed. If they are unable to provide this information, ask their family member, guardian, or mental health service provider. Make sure that victims have access to water, food, and toilet facilities, as side effects of the medications can include thirst, urinary frequency, nausea, constipation, and diarrhea. 


  • Conduct your interview in a setting that is free of people or distractions upsetting to victims. If possible, only one officer should interview victims. 
  • Keep your interview simple and brief. Be friendly and patient and offer encouragement when speaking to victims. Understand that a logical discussion may not be possible on some or all topics. 
  • Remember that even victims who are experiencing delusions, paranoia, or hallucinations may still be able to accurately provide information that is outside of their false system of thoughts. This can include details related to their victimization, as well as informed consent to medical treatment and forensic exams.
Media and Mental Health Logo

A Highlight from Last Year's Media & Mental Health Awards 

Mayview State Hospital: Last Reminder of a Lost Era Closes Part 1 & 2 
Joe Fahy, Dennis Roddy, and Steve Mellon
Outstanding Achievement Winner for accurate reporting on behavioral health issues 

The late Joe Fahy, writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette discussed the closing of Mayview State Hospital and its reminder of a lost era in psychiatry: isolation. Fahy discussed the importance of community inclusion for the treatment of mental illnesses and the prospect of new treatment facilities engaging in this form of treatment. Dennis Roddy discusses the concerns community members and former patients of Mayview Hospital have with patients interacting in the community. Steve Mellon provides supporting photographs to articles discussing the closure of Mayview.

SWPA Video Clips

Click Here for highlights from the Media & Mental Health Awards ceremony!

The  2012
Media & Mental Health Awards

The 2
nd Annual
Media & Mental Health Awards ceremony will be held November 8, 2012.

Submit or Nominate a Story today!
Click here for more information.

 Portions of this newsletter adapted from
Picture This: Mental Health
in Pittsburgh

SWPA Cover
Click here for the full publication!

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