Taser use on individuals experiencing mental distress: An integrative literature review [2020]

What is known about the subject?
– People experiencing mental distress have a high rate of contact with police in community crisis events.
– Police use a continuum of responses when managing situations involving agitation, aggression and behavioural problems.
– People experiencing mental distress have been subjected to Tasers as part of the police response.
– Following a number of deaths and numerous reports of injuries, concerns have been raised about the safety of Tasers.

What this paper adds?
– Police use of Tasers in mental health crises is relatively common.
– Tasers are used in a range of settings including public places, private residences and healthcare facilities.
– People experiencing mental distress may be subjected to more use of Tasers if initial attempts to gain compliance are not successful.

What are the implications for practice?
– Mental health professionals need to work with police towards greater understanding of the needs of people experiencing mental distress and to promote the use of non‐coercive interventions in mental health crisis events.
– Mental health researchers need to explore the qualitative experiences of people who are Tasered, to provide an evidence base for Taser use with people experiencing mental distress.

Abstract

4.1 Introduction
Conducted electrical weapons, or “Tasers,” are currently used by over 15,000 law enforcement and military agencies worldwide. There are concerns regarding the effectiveness, potential for harm and overuse with people experiencing mental distress.

4.2 Aim
To explore the literature about police use of Tasers with people experiencing mental distress.

4.3 Method
An integrative review was undertaken, and qualitative and quantitative analytical approaches were used.

4.4 Results
Thirty‐one studies were included. Of all recorded usage, overall prevalence of Taser use on people experiencing mental distress was 28%. This population may require a greater number of shocks to subdue them than other people.

4.5 Discussion
There are substantial gaps in the research literature particularly with respect to the decision‐making processes involved in deploying Tasers on this population and the physical and psychological consequences of Taser use in this context.

4.6 Implications for practice
Police use of Tasers in mental health crises is relatively common and occurs in a variety of environments including mental health settings. Mental health professionals need to work with police towards greater understanding of the needs of people with mental illness and to promote the use of non‐coercive interventions in mental health crisis events.

Nutmeg Hallett, Joy Duxbury, Tina McKee, Natalie Harrison, Alina Haines, Elaine Craig, Anthony J. O’Brien
Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 19 January 2020
DOI
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