This is a letter to the editor submitted by Chief Brad Duncan. My thanks follows.
On Friday, June 14th, I had the opportunity to attend the new Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care Facility in St. Thomas for a tour and the opening celebration. The facility has been designed to provide the best possible care in a setting that provides a dignified, inviting environment to facilitate patients return to health and well-being. Individuals can progress through a number of settings from individualized apartments to the “downtown” area providing an opportunity for positive social engagement. The building stands as a testament to how our communities have progressed towards a more holistic treatment for person with mental health issues. Within London, our police organization is working with agencies such as WOTCH, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the London Health Sciences Centre, the Southwest LHIN, Mission Services and many others to ensure that we provide the best possible interactive care working towards the elimination of the stigma surrounding mental illness. The United Way has focused on mental health as one of its key funding initiatives recognizing that it affects many in our community. Every year at the Breakfast of Champions, St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation provides messaging through guest speakers who recount their personal experiences with mental health and how they were able to overcome significant obstacles. This year we listened to six- time Canadian Olympic medalist Clara Hughes who inspired all of us as she described her personal struggles with mental health.
In my own role, as Chief of Police, I am encouraged by Londoners involved in mental health care who collectively are making such a difference in people’s lives. A community making great progress and then I open this past Saturday’s London Free Press and read the following headline, “this is as close as you want to get” referring to the new forensic mental health facility. I found this to be particularly offensive and insensitive, portraying the facility in an extremely negative manner. This is the very stereotypical thinking that makes it so difficult for people to get care as they feel alone, threatened, stigmatized and fearful of what others will think should they seek out treatment. Notwithstanding this is a secure facility, and individuals are there as a result of offences they have committed, the headline is highly prejudicial towards persons with mental health issues. The London Free Press needs to acknowledge that the headline was improper and has overshadowed all the wonderful progress that is being made in mental health awareness and recovery. As a major source of community information, the London Free Press should be part of our community progress towards positive mental health and not continue to perpetuate myths and negative assumptions about mental health care facilities that will, in fact, provide opportunities for individuals to lead healthy lives.
Bradley S. Duncan, M.O.M.,
Chief of Police.
I would like to thank London Police Chief Mr. Brad Duncan. I have had some interaction with police. I have been handcuffed, fingerprinted and I have travelled in the odd cruiser and paddy wagon. I have always been dealt with appropriately and have been extended compassion from some officers.
In watching and being among the police, I am most struck by their humanness. They smile, have senses of humour and carry their dignity within their uniforms. They have families and attended the same schools we did. They have troubles yet they choose to respectfully deal with ours. Many of our dealings with police are not pleasant and we confuse their involvement with the difficulties of the situation.
I am unsure if Chief Duncan is aware of the effects his words might have. His position and the respect he has might actually reach beyond the headlines. We are all honoured that Chief Duncan has the integrity to call a spade a spade. The media were given the same tour and professionally presented with the same facts yet they saw it a service to smear stigma on the freshly painted walls. How is it that Chief Duncan can pull a reasonable and informed impression from these events and our media can’t? I believe Chief Duncan serves us best where he is but I think his calling is to be a reporter. Thank you for your honesty, integrity and fairness Chief Duncan.