Saint John police release stats that show a steady rise in mental health calls
The Saint John Police Force has released statistics that show the number of mental health calls it receives has been steadily on the rise.
Numbers provided by the police department show that in 2021, officers responded to approximately 1,758 mental health calls, which is up from about 1,629 in 2020.
Both years saw a significant increase from 2011, when the department received 699 calls related to mental health.
“We have seen a significant increase in mental health calls over the last 10 years in Saint John,” says Staff Sgt. Sean Rocca with the Saint John Police Force. “That increase looks to be about 152 per cent within the last decade.”
Mary Ann Campbell is the director of the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies at the University of New Brunswick. She says the numbers provided by police reflect a growing need for better mental health services for those who are in crisis.
Campbell also says that police officers are not trained to handle mental health calls.
“They get some training in de-escalation, some training that helps them use their words and these types of things to help de-escalate a crisis call," says Campbell.
“They do their best. They really do their best to respond to the needs of what’s going on, but they are not mental health professionals.”
Meanwhile, the New Brunswick chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association is advocating for more resources.
“Mental illness is not a crime,” reads a statement from the organization to CTV News. “As we do not have effective crisis care to meet demand, police are the default for our province due to chronic underfunding in mental health.”
The statement goes on to say that although the current government has made progress, there is still a long way to go.