By Stacy Ashton
In October, we began work to re(Imagine) Suicide Prevention by addressing the challenges presented by legal, funding, and policy frameworks of our emergency response, policing, and health and mental health systems.
These challenges intersect with stigmas and stereotypes involving suicide, mental health, poverty, gender, race, sexual orientation, and the impacts of historical wrongs yet to be righted. Meeting these challenges will take communities, government, and institutions working together.
With the start of Spring, I thought it would be a good time to update you on our progress.
- In January we received funding from the Vancouver Foundation Systems Change Grant to work with a wide range of interested people and organizations to identify legislation, policies, procedures and assumptions that facilitate a law enforcement approach to mental health emergency response, and promote legislation, policies and procedures that facilitate trauma-informed approaches within communities of care.
- In February we created a Government Relations Task Force with members of our Board and additional volunteers with experience in government, focusing on where our vision intersects with government priorities, and how we can use our expertise to build out the options available for people in crisis, 24 hours a day.
- In March we began exploring protocol agreements with ECOMM-911 to ensure the Crisis Centre stays involved in the 2% of calls that require emergency interventions, usually through police response. We have shared our suicide risk assessment with 911 and police agencies, and are building protocols to require police to contact us for additional information as well as to inform us of outcomes.
- Also in March, the Director of Mental Health invited one of our crisis line volunteers, Omar Bseiso to share research Omar had completed linking COVID-19 case rates to increases in crisis line contacts to the Director of Mental Health in the Ministry of Health. Omar and I were able to deepen the Ministry’s understanding of the crisis line’s role as a core crisis service that needs to be accessible to all.
- In April we signed on as stakeholders in a pilot civilian response team, made up of a mental health professional and a peer support worker, being developed by the Canadian Mental Health Association and the North and West Vancouver Police. We will be focusing on how our crisis lines can refer callers and chatters to civilian crisis response teams and support their work in the field.
- Also in April, we submitted recommendations to the Special Parliamentary Committee to Reform the Police Act, which was brought together to investigate, among other things, the role of police with respect to complex social issues including mental health and wellness, addictions and harm reduction.
Social and systems change takes determined people identifying what needs to change, building the public and political will for change, and writing the policy and legislation to make changes real. Today’s opportunities are due to years of work we and other like-minded folks have done in talking openly about crisis, suicide, and mental illness and showing the importance of being there for people on their schedule when they need us.
Crisis may take us by surprise, but systems change shouldn’t. It’s the outcome of hard work and persistence. We will keep proving that change is possible – if not inevitable – in the coming months and years.
Thank you for your support!
Director, Development and Communications
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call:
- Vancouver Coastal Regional Distress Line: 604-872-3311
- Anywhere in BC 1-800-SUICIDE: 1-800-784-2433
- Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789
- Online Chat Service for Youth: www.YouthInBC.com (Noon to 1am)
- Online Chat Service for Adults: www.CrisisCentreChat.ca (Noon to 1am)