Crisis Call (2003)

French Version Available

What happens when the boundaries between policing and mental health care disappear.... when the police become our new frontline health care workers?

Crisis Call addresses a critical issue affecting the police, psychiatric survivors, legal experts, mental health workers and the public. The starting point for this unique documentary is the story of Edmond Yu, a psychiatric survivor in crisis who was shot and killed by Toronto police after a 1997 altercation on a city transit bus.

Award-winning producer-director Laura Sky asks, is there any way to prevent a mental health crisis from escalating into violence? For answers she looks to the police, psychiatric survivors, and to many others involved in crisis interventions. Crisis Call documents their candid, often compelling stories as they challenge the current system and search for solutions.

How you can use Crisis Call

Crisis Call's goal is to facilitate an exchange of ideas and information amongst everyone involved in crisis interventions. This documentary will be a valuable tool for skills training and sensitization in police colleges and services, mental health facilities, legal education programs, psychiatric survivor organizations, public forums and anti-discrimination programs.

Crisis Call presents these first-hand experiences:

Andria Cowan, one of three Toronto police officers involved in the 1997 shooting of Edmond Yu. Cowan, who has never before spoken publicly about that tragic event, offers her personal response to the shooting and its aftermath.

Stella Montour, who talks about the multi-layered prejudice she's experienced as a woman, as an Aboriginal person and as a psychiatric survivor. She also describes how whe was assaulted in a psychiatric facility, and how police ignored her crisis.

Shaun Davis, a young man, who in a full-blown psychotic state triggered by a prescription medication overdose, forced a bus off the highway near Ignace in 2000. A passenger later died as a result. The documentary includes an exclusive interview with Davis.

The Honourable Mr. Justice Edward F. Ormston, Mental Health Diversion Court, Toronto region notes that more than 25 per cent of the prison population suffers from a major mental illness... "Jail is the only place that's open to the homeless mentally ill person 24 hours a day." Crisis Call visits the Montreal Detention Centre, revealing the disturbing conditions inside its psychiatric unit.

Sergeant Alan McKenzie, Thunder Bay Emergency Task Unit (ETU), who states "...we've now learned through a hard lesson that people who are psychiatric survivors in crisis are in fact, in crisis, not criminals." Viewers meet Sergeant McKenzie during a tense and vivid ETU training exercise that ends with a successfully negotiated surrender. But the question remains: are survivors traumatized by encounters with military-like ETU's, or do these units represent a de-escalation of force, by offering a range of response options for police?

The production of Crisis Call was funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario, the National Crime Prevention Partnership Program, the Henry White Kinnear Foundation, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Laidlaw Foundation, the RBC Foundation, and the Jackman Foundation.