Oak Bay Police reported a 25 per cent increase in mental health calls between 2017 and 2018, despite only a 10 per cent increase in total calls.
Police reported 77 mental health calls in 2018, up from 57 the year previous.
“Mental health calls have increased dramatically. This is not unique to Oak Bay,” said Deputy Chief Ray Bernoties. “The stat only captures the calls where there was no criminal investigation, so our focus was entirely on the mental health issue, often apprehending the individual and taking them to the hospital. It is important to note that the stat doesn’t capture the many other calls such as domestic disputes, assaults, drug-related issues, disturbances, etc. which may also have a nexus to mental health.”
Bernoties said Oak Bay officers frequently come in contact with people who are suffering from mental health issues. There has been an increase in training across law enforcement on how to handle mental health situations and de-escalation. That increase in training is not limited to dealing with the public.
“The Oak Bay Police, like all law enforcement across B.C. and Canada, has and continues to increase awareness and training for our officers through programs such as the Road to Mental Readiness and critical incident stress management,” Bernoties said.
Despite the increase in training and awareness, mental health remains a tricky subject.
“Our officers are very sensitive to the issue of mental issues and have a very compassionate and patient style, however, it is not ideal that the police are often the ones on the front lines of helping those with mental health issues,” Bernoties said.