Mental health professionals are not the solution to racist police violence

Published in Briarpatch Magazine and Upping the Anti

The recent uprising in response to the police murder of George Floyd has sparked widespread condemnation of anti-Black police violence and growing acceptance of radical alternatives to the police. On June 23 2020, the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) joined the chorus of condemnations after the murder of Ejaz Choudry by Peel Regional Police during a wellness check. In a statement, CAMH argued, “Police should not be the first responders […] people in crisis [should be] first met by mental health responders”.

But this suggestion—to replace the figure of the police with that of the mental health worker, requires closer scrutiny. Missing in this analysis is recognition that the mental health field has an ongoing history as a major perpetrator of racial and colonial violence alongside the police.