A few years ago (maybe 2009) I went to a small workshop on mental health. That is when I first met two people I would later work with in The Madvocates! I was just coming into the realization of mental health discrimination that I have now so this was a very overwhelming experience. It was at the workshop that I heard a story that has stuck with me. It’s a horror story really and I don’t like scary!
A woman in attendance shared with us her history of bipolar disorder. She worked in the social services and recently been offered a new position in child welfare to which she was highly recommended for. As per usual she could not start this job until her police check came back. All this time everyone expressed their excitement of her being hired and she prepared herself for this great upcoming job. Her police check came back. On it was a mental health hospitalization. She lost the job.
The police had been called after her psychiatrist suggested she go to the hospital from his office. She didn’t have a car so the police were trusted and called. She willingly got into the car and went to the hospital. This was then logged in the police computer as an apprehension under the Mental Health Act.
She goes to the police for help and they damage her possibly for life! The police wrongfully outed this women! Her choice to disclose was taken away from her and the consequences where horrible!
It’s another issue entirely that her prospective employer decided they didn’t want someone with a mental health history to be on their staff (the whole thing about the mentally ill can’t and/or shouldn’t work with children….well I work with children!!!!).
September 19, 2011 the Mental Health Commission of Canada MHCC responded:
“The Mental Health Commission of Canada believes this practice has proven to be discriminatory and stigmatizing.”
The MHCC says that Ontario, where I live, as of July 2011, non-criminal contact with persons who have mental health issues and the police will no longer appear on police checks. The relevance of a persons mental health appearing on their criminal record checks are invalid.
Despite this I have been terrified of being screened, mostly for vulnerable sector checks (working with children and the elderly for example) because I don’t know what may pop up for me even though I’ve never gone to the police for anything mental health related! What’s worse is these stigmatizing incidences ensure that I never will!
I am glad that the MHCC put a stop to this. It wasn’t all police stations that were doing is but no station should be putting such personal, non-criminal information out there for important people to see!
It’s hard enough to get a job. It’s hard enough to have a job when you have persistent mental health issues. The last thing anyone wants is their mental illness being the reason an employer says no because the “trusted” police decided it was somehow relevant to share.