Thursday August 10, 2023 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated 3:28 pm]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
West Shore RCMP frontline officers responded to 11 mental health related calls for service in just one day yesterday, August 9.
“Though we have seen an increase in mental health related calls for service over the last several years, this number is unusually high as on average, West Shore RCMP has been responding to five to six calls of this nature per day,” says Cpl Nancy Saggar, Media Relations Officer, West Shore RCMP.
Two frontline officers — both of whom are very experienced in mental health related calls for service, says Cpl Saggar — responded to one call in particular yesterday where an individual stated they had already harmed themselves and were intent on continuing this behaviour, says the RCMP in a news statement.
“Frontline officers attended and appended the person under the Mental Health Act. Due to the nature of the self-inflicted injuries, BC Emergency Health Services also tended to the patient before they were taken to hospital. During this interaction, the apprehended individual became violent toward police by biting them and attempting to disarm the officer,” says Saggar in today’s news release.
“Our officer has sustained injuries from the biting and is expected to recover. However, situations like this reiterate the unpredictability and potential for danger when responding to persons experiencing a mental health crisis,” said Cpl Saggar.
Officers were able to gain control of the apprehended individual who was then taken to hospital where they were treated for both their physical and mental heath concerns.
“Force was used to gain control of the patient,” says Saggar. The person’s hands were placed in restraints “to prevent any further injuries to themselves and the officers”, she told Island Social Trends.
Mental health unit:
West Shore RCMP recently announced the formation of a Mental Health Unit which will pair Frontline Police Officers with Mental Health Clinicians. The local west shore detachment says the need for the unit has grown over the past five years; the West Shore RCMP has seen a 39% increase in mental health related calls for service from 1,163 calls in 2018 to 1,622 in 2022.
At an announcement on July 17 about the new mental health unit, West Shore RCMP Inspector Stephen Rose said that mental health calls are expected to reduce overall apprehensions of persons visited, by as much as 50 percent.
The new mental health unit still awaits clinicians from Island Health to join in, explained Cpl Saggar today. Calls are still being responded to by frontline officers at this time.
24-hour crisis line:
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, help is available. Find out more through the Island Health web page. You can also call the Vancouver Island 24 Hour Crisis line at 1-888-494-3888.
===== This article is about RCMP File # 2023-16077
New West Shore RCMP unit will respond to mental health calls (July 19, 2023 – Island Social Trends)
New West Shore RCMP mental health unit (July 17, 2023 – RCMP news release)