Stop Students from Being Handcuffed for Seeking Mental Health Services
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On behalf of Our Minds Matter (https://ourmindsmatterca.org):
Innocent students are being handcuffed and treated like criminals. This barbaric treatment and cruelty needs to end here. Why? Well, picture this:
You walk into your university's health center, seeking the help you know you need; the help they promised you would get if you reached out.
You're escorted into a public space by police, making a scene of your vulnerability. You are now told that you need to be escorted to the hospital to get help, so you emphasize your willingness to cooperate.
You are now HANDCUFFED and forced to feel ashamed for coming forward and being honest about your struggles. You are treated like a criminal, and for what? For doing the very thing the university encouraged you to do....ask for help.
Students have been cornered and surrounded by campus police during their counselling sessions at the Health & Wellness center, and then forcibly handcuffed after begging not to be. Students are being kicked out of campus buildings in the cold of winter, by campus police and paramedics, and asked to never come back; for nothing more than having a mental crisis, and being of no danger to anyone but themselves. Students are being let down, AGAIN. This cannot happen anymore. This needs to stop.
After years of failing to amend policies and change the way mentally ill students are being transported to hospitals from campus, students continue to suffer at the hands of Community Campus Police and are forced into traumatic situations, and at no fault of their own. Students are reaching out to their university health centers during their time of crisis, something that many students already struggle with, only to find themselves being handcuffed and treated like prisoners and criminals. Take a second to imagine yourself in this position. Now take a minute to imagine how you would feel if this was your vulnerable child in need of help, only to be so inhumanely treated by a so called ‘prestigious’ institution. Now multiply that feeling by the hundreds of students who have endured this barbaric treatment up until now with no change in sight, no justice being fought on their behalf. That ends here.
We recognize that campus community police are doing the best they can with the resources they have, but they have been urging the university to allocate more funding and resources to allow better alternatives for transporting mentally ill students, only to have their voices silenced or unheard. Campus police officers do not want to be the front line responders to students in crisis because they themselves know that the unnecessary humiliation and trauma of being handcuffed will only further deteriorate a student's mental wellbeing during a crisis.
Doctors and mental health professionals alike have spoken out against these practices and have pressured these institutions to change their policies and adopt better alternatives, but UofT has yet to change. A mentally ill student does not need a police officer, they need a crisis response team. A student in crisis does not need handcuffs, they need compassion. This injustice needs to stop.
We are calling upon the University of Toronto (St. George, Mississauga, and Scarborough Campuses) along with Peel Region Police and Toronto Police services to apologize for their wrongful treatment of students in the past, and ask that the following demands to improve policies be met:
- Crisis workers should be readily available or should be on-site at Exam and Test centres on campus during exams and midterms
- UofT should provide funding and resources to Campus Community Police that would include officers and crisis workers dressed in plain clothes, and an unmarked vehicles to calmly transport students from the University Health Centers to hospitals
- It should be mandated that a mental health nurse accompany all students during transport from university Health Centers to hospitals when campus police are present
- Students should be given the option to be accompanied by a trusted friend or personal advocate when being escorted from campus to hospitals
- Campus physicians and workers should be required to provide Form 1 students and students in crisis with different transport options including, but not limited to: - Campus Community Police, EMS/Ambulance, Mental Health Nurse, Emergency contact/next of kin/parents
- All three UofT campuses (UTSG, UTSC, UTM) should work together regarding funding, staffing, and resources to centralise mental health policies across campuses and create a standard mandate on how Form 1 students, and students in crisis are handled and approached
- An explicit and detailed policy regarding the transportation and apprehension of students in crisis on campus, stating that EMS/Paramedics and Crisis Workers be the first points of contact
- Students should be given the choice to cooperate with first responders responsible for the individual’s transportation, and allowed to be escorted unrestrained
- If students are being cooperative, they should be given free agency to decide where they would like to be taken to to seek professional help, provided that the facility is able to accommodate the student
- If physical restraints are necessary, individuals should be given a detailed explanation for the reason behind being physically restrained, and be notified by the detaining officers regarding the procedure about to take place before being placed in any restraints
- All three campuses must publicize the policies and protocol for Form 1 students and students in crisis in terms of methods of transportation, first responders contacted, and who has access to the student’s campus police record report of these incidents
- All 3 campuses must work towards ensuring all students are aware of their rights and limits of confidentiality prior to intake, apprehension, and contact of first responders. Students must also be given the choice to be reminded of their rights at any point during apprehension, transport, treatment and thereafter.
We are calling upon the Ontario Provincial Government to amend the vague policies within the Ontario Mental Health Act be revised to prohibit the mandatory use of handcuffs in all situations, and ask that the following demands to improve their policies be met:
- Amend the Ontario Mental Health Act to indicate that first responders called to a scene to escort a patient in crisis should be EMS/ambulance and not police
- Amend the Ontario Mental Health Act’s Form 1 policies to specify how an individual in a mental health crisis should not be handcuffed and escorted by police unless specifically agreed upon between all parties, mainly the individual, involved in the Form 1
- To train provincial officers in crisis response and how to differentiate non-cooperative individuals as opposed to cooperative individuals in emotional distress BEFORE making the decision whether or not to physically restrain the individual
- Amend the Ontario Mental Health Act to require that there be a detailed standard and procedure to be followed by Campus Community Police across the province and Ontario Provincial Police, stating that the transfer of Form 1 individuals be discreet, unrestrained unless recommended by the physician involved, and require only the contact of EMS/Paramedics unless otherwise advised by the physician involved in the individual’s care
- Amend the Ontario Mental Health Act to require that a crisis worker or an officer with appropriate crisis training assess the individual and attempt to de-escalate the situation before placing them in restraints or transporting them to a facility
- Ontario provincial police need to change their policy that states the mandatory use of handcuffs when transporting Form 1 patients to state that transportation methods and level of restraint be advised by the physician, and subsequently adhered to
Our Minds Matter is a non-profit organization in Canada (www.ourmindsmatterca.org and we are a mental health initiative aimed at improving accessibility to mental health resources across post-secondary institutions in Canada. In light of current events, we are tackling this very important issue, but recognize the fear students now have of being handcuffed during transportation from campus to the local hospital. After meeting with the director of Health & Wellness Centre at the St. George Campus of UofT, it became evident that the university’s hesitancy to call the ambulance stems from the fact that students cannot afford the ambulance fee, and the university has no obligation to pay for it. But with exam season coming up, students need to feel as though they can reach out without having to worry about something as trivial as whether or not they can afford to pay for an ambulance so that they don’t have to be undignified and traumatized by being handcuffed.
We have started an ambulance fund, where 100% of donations will go directly towards paying the ambulance fees of students being transported from campus to the hospital.
This petition has been endorsed by:
- Our Minds Matter, a non-profit student-run organisation with the intention of tackling the ongoing mental health crisis in students across Canada and directed towards fixing the growing problems regarding mental health services at Universities and Colleges across Ontario
- The Mental Health Policy Council, a vehicle for effective student mental health advocacy which is comprised of community members from across the University
- Healthy Minds, a UofT peer support and mental health advocacy group
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