Criminalization of Mental Illness

My experience with The Talk has been a wonderful mind opening workshop. The Talk allowed me to express myself and be vocal in a way that I had never been before. The Talk helped me open up about my life and personal experiences mainly with my brother’s mental illness. Before I started The Talk, I never understood why my brother was mistreated and criminalized by the justice system. I never understood why my brother never got the proper help and right supports for his mental illness. The Talk helped me explore the mental health system and its connection to law enforcement. I now understand that instead of receiving mental health treatment, those who suffer for mental health disorders are incarcerated instead.

The Office of Correctional Investigator finds that:

  • Mental health problems are to 2 to 3 times more prevalent in federal penitentiaries than in the general population (2011 study)
  • The proportion of federal offenders with significant mental health needs has more than doubled between 1997 and 2008, There was a 71% increase in offenders diagnosed with mental health disorders. There was also an 80% increase in number of inmates on prescribed medication. (2011 study)
  • 25% of male federal inmates have mental health problems (2017 Toronto Star)
  • 50% of female federal inmates have mental health (2017 Toronto Star)
  • Youth inmates experience an even higher rate of mental health (2017 Toronto Star)

Specifically in Ontario, 80% of youth detained met criteria for at least one mental health disorder.

During The Talk were learned heard from law enforcement on how they deal with crisis calls which require mental health supports. The Talk helped address the stigmas around mental health and how we can improve ourselves individually and support one another as a community. A York University study shows that stigma is often the reason youth and families wait to access support, and when a mental health crisis takes place, police are called to intervene and deescalate a situation.

I hope in the near future we can still spread the message of The Talk throughout our city, reducing stigma, and increasing access to care.

Resources:

Justice for Youth and Children

A resource guide of legal rights for youth and children in Ontario with a section dedication to mental health as well.

https://jfcy.org/en/you-have-rights/

Canadian Mental Health Association

Resources on addressing mental health and specific information and youth mental health and criminal justice.

https://ontario.cmha.ca/documents/youth-mental-health-and-justice/

Toronto Police Service-- Mobile Crisis Intervention Team

Toronto Police Service team partnership with hospital staff trained to address mental health crisis.

http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/community/mcit.php

It only takes one voice to change the world