BC 'chronically underfunded' in mental health support

UBCO assault

A UBC Okanagan nursing student is suing Kelowna RCMP after an officer allegedly assaulted her during a wellness check.

A disturbing surveillance video in the claim shows an officer dragging her down the hallway, stepping on her head and pulling her head up by her hair.

Shelagh Turner with the Canadian Mental Health Association in Kelowna told AM1150’s Early Edition the video is disturbing and there is no condoning this type of behaviour from police.

Turner said there are two larger issues working here; one of which is chronic underfunding of mental health supports.

“The mental health budget in B.C is about 8% of the healthcare budget and when you think about 1 in 5 people have a serious mental illness, it’s 20% of the population.”

Additionally, she said RCMP are not equipped with the knowledge or training necessary to respond to certain incidences.

“Our communities and people need a strong and functioning police force to keep us safe, or to help us feel safe. So, if we focus on recruitment and training and having the best police force possible then we’re focusing on some of the right things,” said Turner.

Turner believes that defunding the police is not the answer.

Instead, she said the governments need to drastically increase funding for community based mental health supports.

“There needs to be a conversation about how we do this better as a community. There may be ways with training that the Dons in the residences [at UBCO] are able to support individuals before they escalate.”

But currently, Turner said qualified professional help for mental illness is not readily available.