Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)

‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Mental health crises are on the rise as Vernon police responded to more than 287 calls in the first five months of the year.

Officers are being called several times a day to mental health related complaints, something they aren’t happy with.

“We too agree that it’s not necessarily the police’s responsibility to deal with to all these mental health calls, but we’re the only people at the end of the day that end up going,” Supt. Shawna Baher said.

The detachment is working with Interior Health at designing a better process. Baher had initially asked about having a mental health designated car, where a public health nurse travels with an RCMP member, something that is done in Kelowna and Kamloops.

“I was told for the size of our jurisdiction it would not be possible.”

Baher admits that one car would likely not even be enough to deal with the amount of calls members are dispatched to.

READ MORE: RCMP and Interior Health working on mental health response

What she would like to see is something similar to a pilot project in Saskatchewan, where a mental health nurse is on staff at the dispatch centre.

”A nurse is able to help triage that call…maybe give you some tips and tricks on how to deal with the individual,” Baher said. “Or better yet, say ‘this isn’t a policing call, we’ll have the community nurse follow up with it.”

Mental Health Week (May 3-9), prompted the RCMP to encourage everyone to prioritize mental health and well-being.

Officers responded as first responders to aid those 287 individuals experiencing crisis between Jan. 1 and May 1.

The goal of each intervention is for safe resolution through compassion, understanding and empathy.

But police and all first responders are human, too, and not immune to the compounding emotional and psychological and emotional effects of involvement.

“All employees are encouraged to have regular check-ins with a mental health professional,” Baher said.

“We want them to have someone in place, someone familiar, someone they can trust, should the need arise,” she said. “All new members to the detachment are assigned a peer-to-peer mentor to ensure they are receiving any support they need and to help them establish good habits early on as they transition into their new career.”

The RCMP are reminding the public that “you are not alone.”

For additional information on resources and programs related to mental health, visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website at cmha.ca or Mental Health Week at mentalhealthweek.ca.

READ MORE: 5 years in the making: Mental health app for youth and children launches in B.C.


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