Mounties contend with rise in mental health calls

Recently, Campbell River RCMP have dealt with two individuals in such situations

The number of files where police are called to help individuals for mental health reasons has more than doubled in the first six months of this year compared to the first six months of 2010, Campbell River RCMP spokesperson Const. Sara Clark said.

“Being a police officer isn’t always about fighting crime, police officers regularly deal with people who have come to a place where they feel no one is there to help, but a police officer always is,” Clark said. “Police in Campbell River have been dealing with more of these files lately, than in recent years.

“In Campbell River, the number has steadily increased, over the last six years. These situations are very high risk, and highly charged for officers. They require a lot of patience and diligence in extremely tense situations.

“Officers in Campbell River have proven time and time again they are the right people to help, by apprehending them under the Mental Health Act and bringing them to a medical professional.”

Recently, Campbell River RCMP have dealt with two individuals in such situations.

In the first incident, an individual called police to report consuming a toxic amount of drugs and was threatening to harm themself. A lone police officer located the individual and provided assistance. As the officer approached, the individual had a weapon in hand and was begging the police officer to shoot them. The police officer made the critical decision to switch from his pistol to the Conducted Energy Weapon (“CEW” more commonly known as “Taser”) allowing him to apprehend the individual without incident.

In a second incident, an individual sent friends photographs which showed they had harmed themselves. The individual asked their friends to say goodbye to their family. The friend called the Campbell River RCMP, who were able to identify the neighbourhood the individual lived in. Every RCMP officer working came out to assist in the search and began urgently knocking on doors, until the individual was located. Despite efforts to de-escalate the situation, the individual would not co-operate and began to take a large amount of pills. Clark said officers had no choice but to react, using the CEW once again to allow the individual to be apprehended and to be taken to a doctor for assessment.

“During our initial training (at Depot, the RCMP Training Academy), RCMP Officers are required to take part in a scenario where they are required to respond to an incident in progress concerning a mental health call,” Clark said. “We must use knowledge taught earlier about negotiation and mediation skills, as well as legislation, risk assessment, etc. Signs, symptoms and behaviours associated to a mental health condition are also part of this training. This initial training is supported by ongoing training, and real life experiences, throughout our policing careers. Police officers are an important resource in the world of mental health.

“When people are at their worst and in their darkest hour, it’s often police officers that find a way to pull them out and put them in the hands of medical professionals. These are life or death situations for both police and the public, when someone is in that place they don’t care if they live or die, that’s not only difficult for them, but also for us.”

Anyone who feels they need assistance or someone to talk to can call the Crisis Line at 1(888)494-3888.