The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) has announced it will be releasing its report which will serve as the blueprint for a formal mental health education and training program for police departments across the country. The report set to be released in June is titled A Comprehensive Review of the Preparation and Learning Necessary for Effective Police Interactions with Persons with a Mental Illness. An executive summary has already been released and highlights the need for police training specifically on:
- The application of effective verbal and non-verbal communication skills and de-escalation techniques for calming tense situations involving people with mental health issues
- Balancing verbal communication and de-escalation skills with technical use-of-force skills
- Understanding the relationship between mental health issues and dangerousness.
The MHCC also recommends that an anti-stigma program for police personnel is established by mental health organization such as the Canadian Mental Health Association and that police officers should understand the importance of establishing positive and effective relationships with mental health agencies in the community. More specifically the MHCC recommends that police personnel understand the function of local mental health agencies, the available options, where and how to call for assistance or to make a referral.
CMHA Ontario has been involved in addressing these issues through its work on:
- Police and Mental Health Collaborations in partnership with the Provincial Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee (HSJCC), where we conducted a critical review of joint police/mental health partnerships and profiled leading practices that have shown to be effective across Ontario.
- The complex issue of Violence and Mental Health, outlined in a discussion paper that explores how language and the media can influence public perceptions of mental health. There are significant gaps in research on this topic and no definitive evidence linking violence and mental illnesses. In fact, individuals with serious mental illnesses are more likely to be the victims of violence themselves compared to the general population.
Read the executive summary of MHCC‘s A Comprehensive Review of the Preparation and Learning Necessary for Effective Police Interactions with Persons with a Mental Illness.