MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT A CRIME. MENTAL WELLNESS CHECKS MUST BE A HEALTH-CARE RESPONSE, NOT A LAW-ENFORCEMENT RESPONSE
For immediate release (June 30, 2020) – The Canadian Mental Health Association of New Brunswick (CMHA of NB) is concerned by the deaths of individuals experiencing a mental health crisis in New Brunswick and across Canada, stemming from interactions with the police. Each of these deaths is an unacceptable tragedy. We extend our condolences to the families, loved ones and communities mourning these deaths, and call on decision-makers to heed the urgent calls for truth, accountability, and change.
Systemic racism, including anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, has gravely increased the risks associated with experiencing a mental health crisis. These tragic deaths also have a history rooted in Canada’s long-standing inadequate investment in mental health. Care providers, service users and other advocates have long been united in calling attention to this. The absence of effective crisis care, and the default reliance on police officers in responding to a mental health or addictions related crisis, is the result of decades of systemic underfunding of mental health and substance use services across Canada.
Christa Baldwin, Executive Director for CMHA of NB offers, “Treating mental illness like a criminal act is further stigmatizing mental illness. All people have a fundamental right to a dignified means of health care. The response to mental health wellness checks must be a health-care response, not a law-enforcement response. An appropriately funded mental health care system would enable earlier intervention and treatment to help prevent many crises, coupled with the ability to respond in times of crisis with more effective care and support focused on de-escalation and well-being.”
Branches, regions and divisions of the CMHA federation and our community partners across Canada have on-the-ground experience with improving emergency first response to mental health crises, as well as deep policy expertise on solutions appropriate to their region, province or territory. We urge governments to:
- reach out to the leading voices of mental health advocacy and care in their jurisdiction.
- fully incorporate the voices of people with lived experience of mental health issues and illnesses in their decision-making for change.
- invest in community-level mental health care solutions to mental health crises; and
- acknowledge the role of colonialism and racism, particularly anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, in our systemic failure to deal safely with mental health crises.
Health emergencies require a health care response. We must all commit to doing more and doing better.
About the Canadian Mental Health Association:
As the province-wide leader and champion for mental health, the Canadian Mental Health Association of New Brunswick facilitates access to the resources people require to maintain and improve mental health and community integration, build resilience and support recovery from mental illness.
Lori Wheeler, Director of Communications | 506 447-7153 | firstname.lastname@example.org