News / Halifax

Halifax police consider reporting suicides: 'This is becoming way too common'

The force's chief says it's a significant mental health issue that may require it being made public more.

Police in Halifax are considering the idea of reporting suicides as means of opening up a new conversation about mental health supports.

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Police in Halifax are considering the idea of reporting suicides as means of opening up a new conversation about mental health supports.

Halifax police have brought up the idea of reporting suicide statistics as a way to chip away at stigma, and open up a conversation on mental health supports.

During a Board of Police Commissioners meeting Monday, members received numbers for May showing that reports of Emotionally Disturbed Persons (any mental health call) were up 26 per cent compared to that month last year, and there was a 28 per cent spike in hours that officers spent monitoring people on Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act (IPTA) basis.

Chief Superintendent Lee Bergerman, Halifax RCMP, said in the meeting it’s important for the public to know how often police respond to suicides or manage to intervene successfully, and the toll it takes on officers. Only then can there be changes in the health care system, Bergerman said, like having other professionals monitor IPTA patients rather than police since nothing criminal has occurred.

For Chief Jean-Michel Blais, he said while there’s been an old fear of copycat suicides following the reporting of any statistics, the reality is they occur in “significant numbers” already.

Although Blais said it’s too early to say for sure, he imagines a system where the number of suicides, completed or intervened, is reported without geographic location or other situational details.

“This is becoming way too common, and … perhaps it’s time we start looking at this as being the significant mental health issue that deserves and requires reporting,” he said.

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