New mental health crisis response models to connect people to a more effective and robust mental health system are being considered and developed by many Canadian cities, including Ottawa.

Jurisdictions internationally and in Canada are reviewing their mental health crisis response models. The aim is to develop new models that connect people to a more effective and robust mental health system with integrated/wrap around services that deliver positive outcomes for persons in mental health crisis. The Cities of Calgary and Toronto are developing new models and closer to home is the expression of intent by the Ottawa Police Services (OPS) Board to propose a community-led, centrally dispatched, health crisis response program staffed by experienced crisis intervention teams that will provide a more effective mental health response than a 911 police call when families or the public witness someone in distress. It is expected that this work will be knit together with the City of Ottawa’s recently approved Community Safety and Well-Being Plan which sees mental well-being as one of six interconnected priorities as follows: simplifying and integrating systems, strategies to address discrimination, marginalization and racism, financial security and poverty reduction, housing, mental well-being, and gender-based violence and violence against women.


Caregivers are often at ground zero of the mental health crisis of their loved ones. Their perspective and the perspective of organizations serving those living with a mental illness are critical to redesign of a crisis response. Failing to include these perspectives risks missing the mark.

Collaboration between all providers of mental health services, the police, members of the community and those with lived experience is essential in designing the policies, procedures and responses that will underpin a successful, new mental health model. The design must include input from organizations serving those living with a mental illness as they too, deliver mental health programs and supports. Similarly, the input of caregivers of those living with mental illness is essential because caregivers are most often at ground zero of the mental health crisis call and at the receiving end when their loved one is released from hospital or from the justice system. In addition, caregivers are a reference point for their loved ones and a point of stability in an otherwise very unstable life. For those living with a mental illness, caregivers are the people who can be absolutely relied upon. Failing to understand service providers’ and caregivers’ perspectives in the design of a new mental health crisis response model could result in delivering policies and procedures for a new response that is slightly better but misses the mark.

The Mental Illness Caregivers Association (MICA) wishes to have input to the design of a new mental health response model for Ottawa and is seeking input from caregivers and organizations to a first draft summary of the 8 stages in a mental health crisis under the current system when a 911 call is made to the police, from a caregiver’s perspective. The thoughts, feelings, experiences and expectations of the caregiver is noted as the crisis ramps up when the caregiver senses the crisis developing, straight through to discharge and ongoing mental health care for a loved one once the crisis abates. In themselves, the stages not only offer some cues, pointers and markers for the designers of new crisis response models, but are also followed by specific recommendations for service improvement.

Tell us what you think about the 8 stages in a mental health crisis we’ve described, as we see it through the lens of caregivers. Answer the questions below or use them to prompt your thoughts and ideas on the issue. We appreciate your input at caregiverinput@micaontario.com by March 31, 2022.

MICA now needs the input of caregivers and organizations serving those living with a mental illness to review the current state and the recommendations for improvement so that we can create a broader, more widely considered document for presentation to program designers and decision makers.

- What have we missed in the stages depicted in our model? - What are your thoughts on the information presented here: gaps, missed opportunities
- What could be better explained? - What is your organization working on that aligns with this work presented here?
- Thinking about how to increase understanding and support for caregivers and their loved ones living with a mental illness, where should MICA present this information, i.e., what audiences, events organizations? - How can you help MICA to circulate this document wider, i.e., can you share it with your audiences/members and if so how and when?


1. About The Mental Illness Caregivers Association (MICA): MICA is a non-profit organization comprised of family members and caregivers committed to ensuring that caregivers are aware of and can access resources to provide support and lifelong care for their loved ones living with a mental illness. The goal of our work is to develop and implement solutions that have a lasting and positive impact on the quality of life of caregivers and their loved ones living with a mental illness.

2. The recommendations in this document are guided by and echo the research, findings and reports of eminent organizations involved in mental health policy and care such as the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the Family Mental Health Alliance, the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, the City of Calgary‘s Mental Health and Addictions Community Strategy and Action Plan 2021-2023

Click on the list of items in the left hand panel below to view the Caregiver's Perspective when their loved one is in a Mental Health Crisis - Step through the 8 Stages and see our recommendations