Canadian Security Magazine

Mental health and today’s professional security provider

By Ashley Cooper   

Features Opinion

From hospitals to college campuses, and from shopping malls to office towers, mental health issues are becoming a greater challenge for security professionals and police across Canada; demanding increasing time and resources as a result.

Up until the 1970s, the treatment for those suffering from mental health disorders was primarily institutionalization. In short, the theory was to separate them from the rest of society and put them in a facility where treatment could be administered. In many cases, treatment was nothing more than “caretaking” as little was known at the time about effective mitigation and support methods.

As the 1980s rolled in, the movement towards decentralization and community-based treatment became the preferred method of care, and institutions across the country began slowly closing their doors in phased stages. Group homes became the new norm and sufferers of mental health disorders were encouraged to integrate in the community through government-based programs and assistance.

With budgetary challenges in every government at every level across the land, funding for these programs has been, and continues to be, a serious issue. Add to this the fact that many sufferers of mental health disorders are, by their very nature, unaware of their circumstances and challenges, and you have a system whereby mental health sufferers “willingly” fall through the cracks and prefer to fend for themselves.

The results are easily spotted from a security standpoint where many of the transients and homeless people within large urban cities suffer from some form of mental health disorder.


A growing number of mental health-related cases are being seen in emergency departments nationwide, just as they are increasingly occurring in schools and universities across North America. Some of these cases involve people who know that there is something wrong with them and are simply crying out for help. Others are much more sinister and the results can be seen in violent rampages, much like 2012’s tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in the U.S.

Where does this leave the modern day security professional? Significant training in how to deal with mental health issues is required throughout the policing community and the security industry as the number of incidences continues to rise. Security companies who don’t prepare for this, and who do not properly train their people in how to recognize and safely handle such situations, are not only putting their front-line staff in potential harm’s way, but they are also leaving their clients vulnerable.

My simple advice for users of security is this: ask your current provider how they train and prepare their people to deal with mental health issues and, if you receive a blank stare in return, contact a professional security company who has properly prepared for this ever-increasing challenge in today’s changing society.

Ashley Cooper, is the president and CEO of Paladin Security. This column was originally published on Paladin Security’s website here.

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