Fix the mental health care crisis

Severe, untreated mental illness patients are in need of help. Hospitals need to lend a hand, and police should be given a break.

I have been reading endless news articles about the mental health care “crisis” for months now, but have heard no conclusion or result.

Severe, untreated mental illness patients are in need of help. Hospitals need to lend a hand, and police should be given a break.

This matter has reached the federal level, but with unexpected answers. In February, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the Conservative government is providing courts with new powers to lock up people found not criminally responsible for their crimes due to mental health problems. They are classified as “high risk.”

In September, Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu said “if we truly want a community that is safer for everyone, we must find more resources and medical professionals to help those who are suffering from severe mental illness.”

This whole matter compels me to think that the rule of law, stating that all people are equal, is not obeyed. The police are dealing with the mentally ill, but the current situation is creating nothing but immense tension for people who desperately need health care. The police are not doctors. They’re only trained to enforce the law, not clinically support people.

People with mental health issues are not criminally responsible for their actions, which clearly means they’re not in the correct state of mind when they perform violent actions. As Chu said, “the police are becoming the first point of contact for those who are severely mentally ill and that is wrong. These people require health care, support, and medical treatment, not the justice system.”

There are many factors to consider while debating this rise in people with mental health issues. One is the government’s closure of Riverview hospital. And more doses of strong drugs, the rise of crystal methamphetamine use, and the province’s failure to construct and open new treatment facilities have all aggravated the situation.

Our current hospitals barely have any beds for patients that require health care for physical ailments, let alone mentally ill patients.

Municipalities need to call for an update and re-opening of Riverview. This will surely be beneficial for everyone associated with this situation – including  the police, health institutions, and the citizens.


Navi Dosanjh, age 16


Surrey North Delta Leader

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