Mental illness is not a crime

Campbell River's Joanne Banks writes about how the government is failing those with mental illness

What do Victoria, Surrey, Vancouver and the Slocan Valley have in common? If you haven’t guessed yet, it is that within the last three months, a mentally ill person has been shot and killed by the police in those communities.

Mentally ill people are not criminals. They are suffering and need to be supported. It is time for our governments to get their priorities straight.

Also this week we have seen a damning report from the Auditor General about vets and returning soldiers with mental health and PTSD issues being neglected. Statistics from 2004 – 2014, show that there have been more military deaths from suicide (160) than combat (138). The Mental Health Commission of Canada states that, ‘in any given year, one in five people in Canada experience a mental health problem or illness.”

In B.C. we have seen government policy that has mentally ill people being moved out of institutional care and then abandoned in the community with many (including vets and concussed sport heroes) winding up on the streets. We need to pressure our governments to restore and improve service . When desperate families ask for help they don’t need to be caught up in bureaucratic process, they need immediate and appropriate care.

When psychologically wounded vets are in distress, they need treatment. When police cite insufficient education about mental illness as the main reason that their members resort to using undue force, they need training now. I want my tax dollars spent on services for people not fancy ads, photo ops and subsidies for big oil.

 

Joanne Banks

Campbell River