Mental health and criminal charges

There are cases in the news recently of crimes committed by defendants possibly due to their mental health issues, which unfortunately stigmatizes all those with mental illnesses. Often when families are dealing with a child or spouse who has mental health issue they call the police hoping that the police can take them to the hospital. Usually, if there is also a report of bad behaviour such as threats, assaults or damage to property, the police have to arrest the person to provide protection to the victims/complainants. Most times these family members are taken to jail instead of the hospital.

The courts can only order treatment if the person is unable to recognize where they are and what is happening in the court, the court can not force someone to see a doctor or take medication if they do not want to. All the court can do is make it an order of bail or probation and if the person does not follow the conditions they will get re-arrested. Also the court may order that the defendant not contact the family members that have contacted the police as the complainant. This does not help those with mental illnesses.

Before calling the police, contact your family doctor, the nearest hospital or the Centre for mental health and addiction (CAMH) at or (416) 535-8501 or 1(800) 463-2338 toll free and get a diagnosis and help for your family member.

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