Time does not heal all wounds, according to a new study completed by researchers from the Université de Montréal's Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital—Fernand-Seguin Research Centre and the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).
Since the September 13, 2006 mass shooting at Dawson College in Montreal, Canada, 40 percent of respondents have reported mental health problems, while others experienced severe post-traumatic stress symptoms. Preliminary findings from the Canadian study will be presented for the first time in New York City at the 31st International Congress on Law and Mental Health.
“Since the 1999 Columbine tragedy, school shootings have doubled (to 60), compared to the last decade, resulting in 181 deaths. Despite the frequency of these incidents, there are very few empirical studies on their psychological effects and no studies have evaluated the effectiveness of psychological interventions,” says Dr. Warren Steiner, head of the McGill University Health Centre's Department of Psychiatry and one of the key figures involved in implementing an emergency psychological intervention plan following the shooting at Dawson College.
“It is crucial that we learn from these experiences in order to better help those affected by such tragedies,” he adds.
The study, conducted among 949 members of the Dawson community, found that some students in need of psychological assistance were reluctant to consult due to the fear of being stigmatized by friends and loved ones. The research team also found that male support staffs were equally averse to seeking professional help.
“People were disinclined to seek help because of prejudices related to mental illness, fear of showing weakness or appearing vulnerable to one's peers or boss and the false perception that time would solve everything,” says Alain Lesage, a researcher at the Fernand-Seguin Research Centre of Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at the Université de Montréal.
The researchers also discovered that repercussions of psychological damage was underestimated among cafeteria staff, college support staff (some of whom witnessed the shooting) and people who were hospitalized. In addition, some professors felt powerless and incapable of helping students.
Almost two percent of respondents were diagnosed as being in a state of post-traumatic stress due to the shooting, and seven percent still report severe post-traumatic stress symptoms associated with the shooting. However, over 80 percent of respondents who received care reported that they were satisfied with those services.
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Source: Catherine Dion
Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital—Fernand-Seguin Research Centre