Supporting Mental Health Crisis Response in Our Communities
IAM would like to express our heartfelt condolences to the individuals, families and communities impacted in the wake of recent incidents involving persons with mental illness and the police.
A call for help to support someone in crisis should never result in a tragedy.
IAM has been involved in work at the intersection of mental health and the justice system for some time and we continue to work actively with government and police services towards reform. Our work includes education on some of the symptoms a person with psychosis can experience, including a break from reality, delusions, hearing voices – symptoms that can feel terrifying to the person, but do not pose a threat to others. This helps promote understanding to elicit a more compassionate response. Some of IAM’s activities in this area include workshops for police officers on supporting those with schizophrenia and psychosis. Our work with police speaks to the importance of communication and gives communication tips to officers, helping officers to effectively respond to people with mental health issues & to increase police knowledge and sensitivity around mental health & mental illnesses.
But we need to do more.
The most appropriate response to individuals in crisis is de-escalation, compassion and connection with appropriate community-based supports.
Investment in crisis response services is desperately needed. This can involve funding to expand 24/7 community crisis intervention teams, crisis centres and short-term residential beds. These services have proven effective in serving the needs of those with mental illness, as they have the skillsets to effectively de-escalate a crisis, reducing the need for further intervention and drastically reducing the chance of escalation. To prevent crises from occurring in the first place, investments are needed into more community-based services and supports that provide a flexible range of barrier-free supports.
Where interaction with police does occur, IAM makes the following recommendations:
- De-escalation training must be enhanced for all police officers both in terms of content and hours spent in training. This training should be delivered in partnership with community agencies who work with justice and mental health involved populations and individuals with lived experience.
- Officers need comprehensive education on and partnership with community-based agencies that can serve as an alternative to arrest.
- Investment in programs that divert people with mental illness out of the criminal justice system entirely, including expanding pre- and post-charge diversion programs and mental health courts.
IAM continues to call for increased investment in these vital areas.
We must do our best, together, to move towards a society that is focused on preventing and treating mental illness in the community, before circumstances and symptoms escalate to the point of a crisis and even potential tragedy.
We are asking for your help to do this:
Contact your local police service or contact
your local MPP to share your experience and recommendations for change.
You can share your support for our advocacy work by liking and sharing our posts on social media. You can also sign up for our Advocacy Alerts
to hear about opportunities to get involved with IAM’s work. Sign up here
or email us at [email protected]
Our Counselling Line
is here for you if you have questions or concerns about your mental health or someone in your life:
For more information on our advocacy efforts or opportunities to get involved in IAM’s advocacy work, email us at [email protected]