Mental health issues have the potential to destroy individuals, families, workplaces and communities.
But despite the widespread distress that serious instability can cause, society is still mostly at a loss when it comes to dealing with it.
Police don’t hide their frustration over routinely bringing the mentally ill into the criminal justice system when they should really be in the mental health system.
Inadequate resources are to blame, we’re told. But it’s also often difficult to tell the difference between crime and mental or emotional breakdown.
And public pressure can be confused. We’re more likely to make noise about cracking down on criminals than helping the mentally ill.
Witness the young man who entered a mental health facility asking for help only to have the intake worker call police when, prompted by the worker, the man detailed his violent thoughts.
Charged with uttering threats, 22-year-old Shane Adam was released from custody under several conditions last week after Crown counsel failed to convince a judge that Adam intended to go through with the violence he had expressed.
He was rearrested, however, late Thursday facing allegations he breached the conditions. A hearing will be held Tuesday.
It’s hardly Adam’s first time in this revolving door. And to hear one of the mental health professionals involved tell it, the mental health system has failed him his entire life.
In this instance, Adam was surrounded by the help he obviously needs and he still ended up in police custody.
But the issue is far from black and white.
Part of Adam’s illness is a dangerous obsession with his ex-girlfriend. He’s ignored court orders to stop contacting her and served jail time for his bad decisions.
The question surrounding Adam’s case is whether it’s better to place him in Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre where he can access mental health services or let him continue the process he’d already begun when he was arrested for uttering threats.
On the surface, imprisoning Adam will ensure that his ex-girlfriend and her family are safe and will guarantee that he receives counselling.
But a conviction could send the message that people in distress can be punished for confiding in professionals. And discouraging people from expressing their criminal thoughts is the last thing society needs.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.