Mental Health Issues and Criminal Offences
In recent years, new light has been shed on the link between mental health issues and criminal offences. Not only are individuals with mental health disorders more likely to be involved in the commission of a criminal offence – they are also more likely to be the victim of an offence. According to one psychotherapist, “mentally ill people are disproportionately victimized by violent crime” and “some types of severe mental illness increase the risk that a person will perpetuate a violent crime.”
This link was recently demonstrated in the arrest of a man from the Chatham-Kent area, who was overheard muttering threats into a cell phone on a train from Ottawa to Toronto. A fellow passenger heard him make statements about plotting to kill female members of Parliament, as well as Prime Minister Trudeau and his family.
According to an Ottawa Sun report, the same man “has a significant history of violence and mental health issues” and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He has been ordered to undergo a mental health assessment.
Unfortunately, there is a documented shortage of resources available for individuals suffering from mental health disorders. A 2008 study released by the Vancouver Police Department revealed that more than one-third of all calls for assistance received by the department involved individuals with mental health problems. In British Columbia, 30 per cent of all prisoners have been diagnosed with a mental health condition or substance abuse problem.
Furthermore, Statistics Canada reports that 2.6 million people in the country suffered from a mental health disorder as of 2002. “While many individuals may be able to cope with their mental illness or compromised mental health in the community, some may display an inability to cope and require more extensive treatment in a hospitalized setting, while others may come into conflict with the law.”