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Taser use on individuals experiencing mental distress: an integrative literature review

Hallett, Nutmeg and Duxbury, Joy and McKee, Tina and Harrison, Natalie and Haines-Delmont, Alina and Craig, Elaine and O'Brien, Anthony (2020) Taser use on individuals experiencing mental distress: an integrative literature review. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. ISSN 1351-0126

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Abstract

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. Aim To explore the literature about police use of Tasers with people experiencing mental distress. Method An integrative review was undertaken, and qualitative and quantitative analytical approaches were used. 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. 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. 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. Relevance statement The lack of service user / consumer / survivor voice in the literature about police use of Tasers is concerning, especially considering the wide range of mental health settings that Taser use occurs in. Without evidence of the experiences of people who are Tasered whilst experiencing mental distress, decision-making around Taser use and police involvement cannot be evidence based, because an important element of the evidence is missing. This gap needs to be highlighted before efforts will be made to fill it.

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