It should come as no surprise at all that I have strong opinions about the state of mental health care in Niagara (and beyond) and some of the ways in which we can assist members of our community who are living with mental health concerns.
Last week, I attended the Public Works Standing Committee (a committee of which I am not (yet) a member) and the Public Health and Social Services Standing Committee where barriers on a specific piece of infrastructure were being discussed.
Having read hundreds of pages of research (related to recent discussions and also over the past several years) coupled with my own lived experience, I am in favour of the barriers.
Here are the clips of the Public Works meeting during the times I am speaking, followed by the article from the Standard about the decision of the Public Works Standing Committee.
It is important to note that whilst the recommendation to construct barriers passed at Public Works by a vote of 10-3, it still needs to pass at Regional Council on Thursday (where it needs at least 16 votes – assuming everyone is in attendance).
I stand by my assertion that there is a very real danger here in politicians thinking they are smarter than the experts. In the face of hundreds of pages of scientific evidence (and no evidence to the contrary) that barriers work, one does not get to decide that they just don’t believe the data.
Now, to the afternoon meeting at Public Health and Social Services where I was in favour of adding to the Region’s efforts to educate the public about suicide prevention, but where I was not in favour of what would – in effect – be suicide watchers.
To date, councillors who are opposed to the barriers have presented two other main options:
- Cameras at the location; and
- People patrolling the location.
It should be noted that NRPS has increased their patrol of the bridge
Now, to point #1, let’s break down how this would work. Presumably, cameras are installed and the Region is paying someone to monitor them from another location. Someone travels the location. Do we immediately dispatch someone? There is enormous potential for that to be a waste of resources, given that many people travel the location simply to get from one point to another. Do we wait and see if they stop and then dispatch someone? What if they’re just taking in the view? Even if they’re not, how long does it take for someone to get there? Ten minutes? Seven minutes? Five minutes? Two minutes? If they’ve decided to fall from that location, they’ve very likely already done it before someone gets to them, and then that person is left to make the calls necessary to deal with the aftermath, including possibly their own trauma from not being able to stop it.
To point #2, you will hear in the video below my questions of Dr. Hirji with respect to the cost-effectiveness of someone patrolling the location versus building barriers. For clarity, here is the chart Dr. Hirji provided to us:
Following my questioning of Dr. Hirji, another councillor suggested that the patrolling positions (for which no evidence could be found to support their efficacy in preventing suicide) be volunteer positions. Though the clear cost impact is presumably removed from the scenario of volunteer patrollers, I still voted against it, because:
a) where would the Region find enough properly trained volunteers to patrol the bridge? and
b) what is the Region’s liability for recruiting volunteers for a positions such as these but those volunteers not having access to the supports they are likely to need should they not be able to stop someone from falling?
Knowing that our police officers, emergency medical providers, and fire fighters suffer from PTSD and other concerns when they witness someone fall or have to retrieve someone, how can we possibly ask people to volunteer for such a role without the supports necessary to assist them when they suffer from the same concerns?
Again, I imagine I will be advocating for more and better mental health services and programs for the rest of my life (I’ve already been doing it for 10+ years), and we – as a government body – have to be very thoughtful about what measures we can take and how we take them.
Please note that whilst I have shared my own story in the past, continue to share my opinions on this matter, and have done a great deal of research on issues around mental health, I am not a mental health support worker.
If you are in crisis or know someone who may be in crisis, please contact:
Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) 1-866-550-5205 (for adults)
Pathstone Mental Health 24-hr Crisis Line 1-800-263-4944 (for children & youth)
If you are grieving, please contact:
Hospice Niagara Support Groups ~ http://www.hospiceniagara.ca
Bereavement support is available to anyone in the Niagara region regardless of cause of death. Hospice provides facilitated peer group support for adults, adolescents and children, a grief walk and peer support for the bereaved. Direct counseling is presently not provided.
Contact Melissa Penner, Bereavement Advisor, 905-984-8766 # 233, firstname.lastname@example.org
Loving Outreach ~ http://www.lovingoutreach.org
A support group for people who are living with loss of a loved one through suicide
Meetings are the second Monday of each month, September—June. Home Visits are available. Contact Walt or Lucienne Chemerika, 905-934-2176, email@example.com
Contact Peter or Wendy Fisher, 905-371-9767