Mental Health and Policing

Cop Corner Issue No. 18

Written by: S/Sgt Luis Gandolfi Bonnyville RCMP Detachment

One of the most complicated and dangerous elements to policing is when we deal with a mentally unstable individual.  Not to be confused with someone who is simply high or drunk, mental illness brings a whole new series of problems.

Imagine if you will, having the mind-set that demons or angels are actually speaking to you, that people in white cars are all agents of the state who are following and harassing you, that you ran into the back of a parked vehicle at 100 km/h because the Hells Angels were after you, or that you ran naked through a patio window and nearly bled to death blocks away because you saw your dead father in the bathroom.  All true stories dating back through my 20 years of policing in this Province.

For some, these situations may seem comical but I can assure you that they are intensely real to the patients and families in crisis.  When someone is high you can typically wait a few hours and their behaviour normalizes.  Try that when someone is mentally unstable and their condition typically worsens as their bodies process and deplete what ever medication they have left on board.

If you suspect someone needs help and you don’t know what to do, I can offer you some advice.  First of all consider talking with your family doctor who can point you in the right direction.  If that’s not an option consider the Mental Health Helpline at 1-877-303-2642 or Health Link at 811 anywhere in Alberta.  There are options under the Mental Health Act to compel individuals for treatment including community treatment orders and custodial treatment if the situation merits it.  These are a last resort solution but in some cases that’s where the individual is simply at from a treatment standpoint.  We have information on all of these services and can help you if you need a hand.

As always, happy to assist in any way possible.  Stay Safe.

*Cop Corner is written and produced by S/Sgt Luis Gandolfi of the Bonnyville RCMP Detachment. It has not been altered from the author’s original content.