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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)- Katrina Sunivelle works with Contact Help Line in Columbus and constantly gets calls from people who suffer from mental illness.

“I had an incident last night where someone was having this problem. Mental health is something that people don’t understand and the community doesn’t understand,” said Sunivelle.

Which is why she’s happy Columbus Community Counseling is providing the services first responders need. Law Enforcement, fire fighters and operators participated in classes and role-playing scenarios about what to do if they were approached or came into contact with a mentally ill patient while on the job.

“One exercise we had, I had a problem and I called my partner. I was talking to her about what I learned in this class and she had her cell phone like she was ignoring me and it aggravated me. And that’s how a caller would feel if I’m not taking the time to listen to them and really feel what they’re feeling and trying to help them,” said Sunivelle.

Many times police officers are the first people on the scene and have to deal with mentally ill patients. The courses being offered will help them administer the proper care.

” We deal with a lot of mentally ill people and if you sweep it under a rug,their problems are going come up again, so, the best thing to do is just go ahead and refer them to where they need to be and get them the treatment they deserve because our motto is to serve and protect, said Columbus Police Officer Matthew Sorrells.

Firemen, like Captain Larry Webber know the classes will help educate them on the issue.

“At a fire, you may have someone who may have lost a lot of property. They might be under some kind of anxiety attack. We’re learning a lot because we don’t know how to handle certain situations. We just save people and go on about our business,” said Captain Webber.

And Katrina knows the next time she receives a call, she’ll be able to help someone who has to cope and deal with the stigma that comes with the illness.

“The more knowledge is more power, the more power we have we could really help our community be a safer place to live,” said Sunivelle.

Community counseling will offer classes to first responders and other community groups throughout the month of May and June. If you’re interested in having a training session, you can call Community Counseling Services at (662) 295-0873


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