Police wellness checks: Why they’re ending violently and what experts say needs to change

Police wellness checks: Why they’re ending violently and what experts say needs to change

Questions are mounting about police officers’ roles in responding to mental health calls following the recent deaths of distressed people whose families sought help.

Most recently, a 62-year-old man reportedly experiencing a schizophrenic episode in Mississauga, Ont . was shot by police who responded to a call from his family for assistance. Earlier this month, two Indigenous people known to have mental health challenges were .

And in late May, a Toronto woman fell from her balcony while police were on scene after receiving a call from her family that she was in mental distress.

But with recent deaths and public outcry, experts say change is needed.

The term ‘wellness check’ is associated generally with situations when police officers check in on someone whose mental health or well-being are of concern.

But there’s no standard for wellness check protocols across Canada — those are determined by individual police services, according to Jennifer Lavoie, an associate professor of criminology at Wilfrid Laurier University, who specializes in investigating how police respond to mental health crises.
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