Mental health professional says calling 911 is appropriate when crisis involves weapon, threats

Recommends crisis lines in other situations
Jacob Griffin Officer Involved Shooting
Posted at 5:51 PM, May 03, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A 23-year-old man with schizophrenia died over the weekend after exchanging gunfire with Metro Nashville Police.

AfterJacob Griffin's mother told 911 dispatchers he threatened to kill her and others, police spent hours trying to help the man experiencing homelessness in a wooded area off Nolensville Pike.

"I think if somebody has a gun, if somebody is a threat, then 911 is the best default there is," said Tom Starling, CEO of Mental Health America of the MidSouth.

Tom Starling watched the video released by the Metro Nashville Police Department of the exchange between Griffin and officers.

"I believe that they held back as much as they can," Starling said.

Police spent approximately four hours with Griffin in the woods. A negotiator and someone from Mental Health Co-op responded as well.

"I think in this case the police and SWAT teams really seemed to do everything they could. I think everyone just wishes that it turned out differently," he said.

The mental health professional said help is always a call away, but not always at 911.

"Maybe call the crisis hotline or text the crisis line. We are really blessed with some really great stage four or crisis services in Tennessee, but we really should be paying attention earlier than that," he said.

Starling said when a police response is necessary, people making the 911 call should give dispatchers as much background as possible.

"I think that any additional information that first responders and emergency responders can have, it will help them to know I may be entering a mental health crisis, but this is not a dangerous emergency, I can handle it differently," he said.

Depending on the severity of the situation, the mobile crisis team is available 24/7/365 at 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471) for those who are experiencing a mental health emergency. Services include Mobile Crisis Services for children, youth and adults. For help for someone who is not in a state of crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available at 800-273-8255 or by texting TN to 741-741.