Campbell River RCMP outline their approach to mental health calls

Recent events have spurred discussion of police interactions with people suffering from mental health concerns

The Campbell River RCMP have offered some insight into how officers deal with calls involving mental health issues.

Recent events in Canada have spurred a lot of discussion in terms of police and interactions in regards to people who are suffering from mental health concerns or are in crisis, a statement released by the Campbell River RCMP detachment says.

Many of the calls to action are already part of the way events and training are being conducted. The RCMP say that does not mean things cannot be improved upon, but in the spirit of understanding and partnership, they have released information to explain how calls are presently dealt with, the training officers have and what the public can do to ensure successful interactions.

All members of the Campbell River RCMP are trained in crisis intervention and de-escalation. Some officers have additional backgrounds as well, like increased mental health training, social work backgrounds, and training involving people with differentiated mental abilities.

Often times the RCMP will respond to a call that is identified as mischief or a disturbance and upon intervention by the police officers, it’s determined that what police have actually been called to is a mental health crisis. In situations such as these, RCMP members work with their partners at the Vancouver Island Health authority to determine the best course of action for the individual. At times this may mean transportation by BC Ambulance to hospital, referral to various support agencies in the area, or in cases where the person may be a danger to themselves or others, they may be apprehended by police under the Mental Health Act.

When an apprehension occurs, the subject must see a doctor. This could mean that police take the person to the hospital themselves or accompany the person in an ambulance depending on the situation. In situations like these, the use of any force is an absolute last-resort scenario.

“It’s extremely important for us,” said Const Tyre, “to get as much information about a subject as we can prior to attendance at a call that may involve mental health. Sometimes what a caller will tell us can be very limited as the person they’re calling about is a stranger. In other instances, family members or close friends call. The more information we receive from these callers, the better the understanding we have of how to have a positive interaction.”

Information that can help is:

• whether the person has any diagnosed mental health issues

• are they on medications/drugs and what kind?

• what is their relationship like with police?

• have they had a brain injury in the past?

• what could have triggered the behaviour that is causing the call?

• does the person have access to weapons?

Calls for people in crisis are quite common, and are usually resolved without any negative interaction. With more information from a caller, the police can ensure that a Mental Health call has a positive outcome.

When police first arrive, they will try and ensure the safety of everyone involved and may ask bystanders or even family members to move away. Contrary to a common belief, it’s not to hide anything. Unfortunately, in many cases, the person who calls, friends, or family may actually escalate a situation by their actions. If the officer gets the opportunity to talk with the person in crisis it may be possible to determine if those close to them will be helpful or will escalate a situation.

What is not commonly understood, is that police usually only become involved in mental health when a person has already had a negative social interaction with someone else. This does not necessarily mean they’ve done anything illegal, but their actions have pushed the boundaries of societal norms and it’s been noticed by someone.

When someone is experiencing mental health difficulties, there are several options for help available in Campbell River. The local hospital has crisis nurses on staff, there is a mental health and addictions office and your family doctor can assist you with finding the right treatment to fit your particular situation. Ideally, these resources should be accessed before someone reaches a crisis point, but a lot of people will choose to attempt to manage their problems privately and those closest to them will not find out until things reach a crisis point.

“Sadly, that’s part of the stigma of mental health difficulties we as a society have to overcome,” said Const. Tyre. “If we are more comfortable sharing our problems with those that care about us and can reach out early, it helps to prevent crisis. Personally I will share my own battles with PTSD with many clients just to let them know it’s okay to talk about what’s going on and that talking about difficulties is nothing to be ashamed of.”

Local Area Resources:

• Mental Health and Addictions Campbell River: 250-850-2620

• Campbell river Hospital Crisis Nurse: 250-286-7159

• MIND HEALTH BC Crisis Line 1-800-784-2433

If you are someone you know is in crisis and you feel they may be a danger to themselves or others, please contact the RCMP.

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