Lyle Richardson has been hospitalized about 20 times in relation to his schizoaffective disorder diagnosis, which combines symptoms of schizophrenia and mood disturbance. Close to half of those have involved police in New Westminster, White Rock and Kelowna, who got him to the hospital, he said.
He appreciates that police have responded to him the many times he’s needed emergency response. “I do feel safe in the hands of police,” Mr. Richardson said.
He said he’s been feeling better for a few years but before that, his crises often made him feel suicidal. He was once found by police after running away from a hospital. Another time he was on the SkyTrain dressed up in costume, holding a plastic gun. A friend of his who is a police officer recognized Mr. Richardson and told his colleagues about his diagnosis.
“My judgment wasn’t intact,” said Mr. Richardson. “I guess it could have turned out to be a worse situation than it was.”
In another encounter, he said he called police and asked them to help him commit suicide. The police have been mostly helpful in getting him the medical help he needed, he said. However, he doesn’t agree with being handcuffed.
“I try to fight that feeling,” he said. “I don’t think poor management of my mental illness is really a criminal act and this feels like I’ve committed a crime when [I’m handcuffed] I think that’s maybe too harsher message to send to someone who is struggling with their mental illness.”
Mr. Richardson said most police have been able to recognize when he’s been in crisis, calling it “red flag city.” Most officers have responded knowingly, he said, adding only a few have tried to take an aggressive stance with him.
“I think that’s definitely a sign that they don’t quite know how to appropriately respond to somebody who’s in crisis, especially somebody who’s in fight or flight because of the crisis,” he said.