Skip to content

Letter: Mental illness shouldn't be treated like a crime in Burnaby

Fraser Health questioned on not providing mental health car
Mental health
With self-isolation and the COVID-19 pandemic, staying aware of your mental health and seeking help if you need it is becoming more and more important.


Thank you for your recent article about Fraser Health Authority not providing a mental health professional to work with Burnaby RCMP as "a mobile crisis unit to help police handle calls involving people in mental health crisis."

Such crisis units have operated in Vancouver since 1978. I am aware that in November 2020 Burnaby RCMP first approached Fraser Heath re such a pilot program to "help deal with skyrocketing mental health calls to police in" Burnaby. Fraser Health has not provided a mental health professional to work with Burnaby RCMP as "a mobile crisis unit to help police handle calls involving people in mental health crisis.”

As someone who was training as a nurse in Victoria, I recall working in psychiatry to provide care for those struggling with mental illness. I met and helped with the care of so many people struggling with mental illness. I saw so many people treated who regained so much mental health and then discharged into the community to live and enjoy fuller lives, not just exist. 

I do not recall people existing on city streets or in parks and self-medicating to numb the pain of their mental illness. That was at a time when facilities provided more accessible, effective care and treatment for those struggling with mental illness and when police were not, as now, being the first point of contact when they are in crisis and or involved in activity caused by/related to their untreated mental illness. 

At one time, care for those struggling with mental illness was available at other health care sites in our province in addition to Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam which many are aware provided more care than is currently available.

There is so much evidence of those suffering with mental illness and so many of us have personally had experiences due to the impact of the lack of mental health care. Mental illness is one of many illnesses suffered by so many in our communities yet is critically undertreated, i.e. treatment of mental illness that should be adequately and effectively treated more effectively as are other illnesses. 

Mental illness is not a crime. Many crimes and risks to safety would not occur if our health-care system addressed and provided the needed treatment of mental illness and self-medicating/substance. When this is done, police will not be left to interact and, in some cases, arrest those struggling with untreated mental illness and self-medicating/substance abuse. Our current lack of care for them is unfair to them, to the police and the general public.

Diane Gillis, Burnaby