November 30, 2017  |  08:12 am

For those suffering from mental or behavioral health issues, the holidays oftentimes bring on additional stress and depression.

In order to address the local mental health crisis and the growing number of attempted suicides occurring in St. Tammany Parish, Sheriff Randy Smith, earlier this year, created the specially trained Crisis Intervention Team (CIT).

This team is made up of four patrol deputies who have successfully completed 40 hours of crisis intervention training. Members of the team are trained to use de-escalation techniques when dealing with individuals in crisis and to coordinate with the appropriate resources to provide follow up assistance to those in need.

As they are year round, members of the CIT team will be on call to respond to mental health crises throughout the holiday season.

To further serve the community and address this need, Sheriff Smith has sought out additional training for other deputies in the agency.

This week, STPSO deputies are attending Mental Health First Aid training being hosted by the Covington Police Department and the local NAMI-St. Tammany chapter. Nationally recognized instructor Joseph Coffey, co-author of “Mental Health First Aid (USA) Public Safety Module” is presenting the course.

“While it is important for our deputies to be trained on what to do when responding to a crime or a medical emergency, in today’s world, it is equally as important for them to be trained in what to do when responding to a mental health crisis,” Sheriff Smith said. “Past protocol oftentimes resulted in individuals being arrested or routed to local emergency rooms. We want to stop putting these individuals in jail and instead get them the appropriate help they need.”

NAMI-St. Tammany is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase awareness and advocate for families and persons with mental health issues.

If you are in crisis or know someone who is please call the suicide hotline, 211, or call 911. Help is available.