Last week, the AD newspaper reported that there has been a big increase in the number of reports of people with a behavioral or mental health crisis in Rotterdam. Throughout 2019, 5.332 reports were made, over 500 more than the year before as police numbers show. This adds up to nearly 15 reports a day. A very worrying trend that has grown over the years and continues to do so.
It's almost unimaginable, more than 5.000 reports of people that were in a dire state were they needed help and support, only to be met by the police, who are untrained to properly handle people in a mental crisis and who choose violence as their 'medicine' far too often.
Over 5.000 cries for help, both big and small. People who (temporarily) are unable to handle life and all that comes with it. People that used to be able to get care in their neighborhoods or through mental health-care, but are now unable to find a place. The groups of people labeled by these terms are quite large. People suffering from mental illness, people not taking (or being able to take) their medication, people with mental disabilities or dementia, but things like addiction, financial stress, relationship issues, being homeless, trauma and/or PTSD can lead to behavior that society doesn't understand.
We are deeply worried by the increase in these reports. It shows that more and more vulnerable people aren't receiving the care they should and need. By labeling all these people as 'confused' or 'mentally ill', we don't do their situations justice. These are people in need of proper care.
Cuts on healthcare over the past few years have decreased the number of places for specialist care rather quickly, without making sure these people have other places to go to. Healthcare focussed on the mental side of 'health' have seen the most financial cuts by the government over the last period.
A new law has been instated on the 1st of January 2020, that focusses more on 'protecting' society from these people, that to focus on their need for care. The collaborations between psychiatric health instances, municipalities, and organizations that provide assisted living is vital to take care of these peoples' needs but is lacking.
We fear this new law will leave even more of this issue to be handled by the police. It's unacceptable that people in such need are simply unable to receive the care they so desperately need. More accessible, special care must be made available to these people, close to their homes.
At this point, people who notice their neighbor displaying behavior they don't understand, the police will be called - as there is no one else to call. Even though the behavior might cause some disturbance, it certainly isn't always criminal or dangerous. The handling of the police won't help either, as violent arrest and hours in a cell happen frequently. A traumatic experience for everyone, but even more intense if a person has lost grip on reality.
Controle Alt Delete, an organization that works towards a police force for everyone, recently reported that in the period 2016-2019, 33 people were killed by the police, half of them displaying 'confused' behavior. In a third of these situations, the police were aware of this beforehand.
These are vulnerable people, who sometimes lose their grip on life and are in need of proper care. Since October of 2018, municipalities are obligated to have a plan for these people. These numbers show that Rotterdam at this moment in time is not doing enough.