De-escalating mental health crises has always been a part of the job of public safety professionals. Recently, a bi-partisan coalition brought this facet to the forefront. A new law enacted at the end of 2022 will provide funding for mental health crisis de-escalation training.
The US Justice Department has been authorized to grant $124 million in funding to State & Local agencies over four years. This funding is designed to provide law enforcement officers with the training needed to prevent mental health crisis calls from escalating on scene, opening the door for many law enforcement agencies to implement immersive virtual reality (VR) scenario trainings.
Mental Health Responses by the Numbers
According to data from a 2022 Mental Health America report, 19.86% of adults in the US are experiencing a mental illness. A quarter of all adults reported that they couldn’t get the treatment they needed.
Often, interactions between police officers and individuals experiencing mental health issues end in detention. In fact, one in four people with mental health disorders have histories of police arrest.
Sometimes, interactions end tragically. One in four fatal police shootings results in the death of a person with severe mental illness. With police officers being called to assist with mental health crisis calls so frequently, the new program presents the opportunity to positively impact communities across the US, including the introduction of scenario-based VR training.
The Power of Virtual Reality Training
Law enforcement officers both need and deserve a solid understanding of mental health crises well before they respond to a call involving an individual experiencing such a crisis. VR scenario-based training allows agencies to simulate these calls in safe learning environments, better preparing officers to face the heightened challenges presented in the real world. VR trainees can access these scenarios before leaving the academy and encountering them in the field, allowing for better real-world results.
Immersive VR scenarios place officers into tense situations where they work to identify the crisis faced by the individual and take appropriate action. And it works: One study found that VR training can result in 275% greater confidence in the field when applying skills learned in training.
The same study found that VR training resulted in 4 times faster skill/knowledge development, and found that users were 4 times more focused than their e-learning peers. Why does VR training have such a profound impact? Virtual reality is immersive, engaging more senses than traditional learning. Psychologists believe this engagement of the senses is essential to internalizing information.
Axon VR and the Power of Immersive Training
Axon has created a leading VR training platform to develop safe and effective skills, empathy and de-escalation tactics for public safety professionals engaging with individuals suffering from a mental health crisis.
Law enforcement officers need to develop core skills to help individuals in crisis — skills that need to be as reliable as any other tool on their belt. With Axon’s immersive VR scenarios, it’s far easier for officers to learn and refine de-escalation tactics.
Simulator Training allows trainees to practice body movement and weapon transitions, and it improves critical de-escalation and decision-making skills, confidence and accuracy under stress. Axon VR represents the future of public safety training: immersive de-escalation training that will ultimately make both communities and public safety safer.
In addition to the core skills that the immersive VR platform teaches, Axon VR instills empathy while erasing fear of the unknown. Several scenarios in Axon’s Community Engagement Training VR curriculum flip the perspective by placing the trainee in the shoes of the individual in crisis to show how they might perceive an interaction with police.
Fundamentally, Axon’s VR platform is about immersion and realism. The platform’s immersive VR scenarios feature true-to-life environments designed to induce comparable stress levels to what officers will experience in the field. Axon utilizes a VR advisory network of 100+ community leaders, clinicians and educators to ensure trainings are accurate, and utilizes 250+ senior law enforcement trainers, command staff, crisis intervention specialists and patrol officers during content development to ensure training is effective for public safety.
With increased confidence in their capability to handle complex mental health issues, officers can more effectively work toward mutually beneficial outcomes that solve the immediate issue while giving them more insight into future calls.
More than 1,400 agencies currently use Axon VR training. Axon Academy houses a library of supplementary e-learning content and training materials designed to strengthen the skills taught in VR.
Axon VR Training prepares officers for complex, real-world situations through immersive training that enhances performance, critical thinking and de-escalation skills. Axon’s immersive VR platform features decentralized training with state-of-the-art technology that can be used anytime, anywhere, without hefty time or capital investment.
The new federal funding enables many law enforcement agencies to pursue immersive VR training, and Axon can help connect those agencies with the right resources to get started. Axon’s expansive content library, developed in partnership with a cross-disciplinary network of first responders, subject matter experts and community leaders, emphasizes critical thinking skills and increases knowledge retention. With Axon VR, officers train for the reality of today – and tomorrow.
Learn more at axon.com/vr