Vancouver, BC – On Monday, January 23rd, the Alex Fraser Bridge, connecting Richmond and New Westminster with North Delta, was shut down due to emergency personnel responding to a person on the bridge experiencing a mental health crisis.
After several hours of negotiation, the person in crisis was returned to safety. However, the Delta Police Department (DPD) stated in their news release that the actions of several frustrated commuters made de-escalating the situation much more difficult.
“You’ve got the police and the people who are trying to help that person live, send the message that people care, and then folks who are are honking their horns are inadvertently sending the message that their commute home is more important,” said Crisis Centre of BC executive director Stacy Ashton, who was one of the commuters on the bridge on Monday, in an interview earlier today.
“I can guarantee you that the person in the mental health crisis is having the worse day.”
Mental health crisis happens when the level of pain and distress a person is experiencing outweighs the effectiveness of their resources and coping strategies. A crisis can be sparked by life’s many stressors if our everyday routines and supports fail to help us cope with them. This can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. It is not something we can schedule.
“It’s important to remember there is a person at the heart of a crisis – someone’s dad or aunt or child. When we are in crisis we need someone to recognize that we are a human being in crisis, listen to us, and guide us back to feeling stable,” said Ashton.
When someone is in crisis, everyone around the person is involved in the situation and everyone can do their part to help. That can mean using trained skills to de-escalate the situation, calling the appropriate emergency responders, or patiently giving space for the responders to work with the person in crisis.
The Crisis Center of BC offers community training programs that build a collective ability to care for those in crisis by teaching community members how to recognize the signs, know how to approach them, and how to connect them to the right resources.
The Centre’s crisis line responders can also help community members concerned about someone’s well-being by directing them to the appropriate help resource or speaking directly with the person in crisis. The public is encouraged to call 1-800-SUICIDE or 310-6789 to support themselves or get support in helping another person.
“Experiencing a crisis can be isolating and disorienting,” says Ashton. “But together we can build communities that can respond to mental health crisis and prevent suicide.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please reach out:
- Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789 (no area code required)
- Anywhere in BC 1800SUICIDE: 1-800-784-2433
Executive Director, Crisis Centre of BC
Director, Development & Communications