Press conference held at Dawson, in front of the Ministry of Security released the results of the psycological impact of the 2006 Dawson shooting
By Carl Perks
Last Thursday, teachers cancelled a total of 11 psychology classes.
Most of those elusive Social Science professors could be found in the Dawson Theatre, where a team of researchers from both the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and the Fernand-Seguin Research Centre of Louis-H.
Lafontaine Hospital presented a report on the impact of the 2006 Dawson shooting and its aftermath to the press, Quebec’s Minister of Security, Mr Robert Dutil, and Anastasia De Sousa’s mother, along with recommendations for an intervention program in the case of future tragedies.
Almost 1000 Dawson students and employees that were present during the shooting also took part in this research. The study, which began only hours after the shooting, laid emphasis on the psychological damages caused by such events, considering their greater impact as they greatly outnumber instances of physical trauma.
According to the numbers taken from their report, in the 18 months following the incident, the research team found 12.1% of the interviewees to show symptoms of major depression, 8.7% to show a trauma-caused alcohol dependency, 9.6% to display social phobia and 3.4% to show symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by the shooting. Most of these numbers correspond to twice the statistical amount for the general population of the province of Quebec in 2002.
Half of the subjects presenting signs of psychological trauma had never shown any kind of psychological illness before the incident and a grand total of 30.9% of the students that were present at Dawson during the shooting displayed instances of mental harm at some point during the 18 months shadowing the events of Sept. 13 2006. According to researcher Dr. Alain Lesage of the Fernand Seguin Research Centre, professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal, ‘‘we should consider as ‘psychologically harmed’ every person in close proximity to the event.’’
The study also showed that 6.6% of the interviewees revealed having suicidal thoughts caused by the trauma and 1% of them attempted suicide. The study did not only intend on shedding light on psychological disorders but also creating an intervention program to propose to the government so that implementations are made to better the support on hand in the cases of a shooting in a scholastic setting.
‘‘Despite over 60 school shootings since the 1999 tragedy at Columbine High School in Colorado, there have been few empirical studies on the psychological effects of these incidents and no study until now that evaluated the effectiveness of psychological intervention,’’ said Dr.Warren Steiner, the Psychiatrist-in-chief at the MUHC Mental Health Mission and research team member. ‘‘It is crucial that we use what we’ve learnt from these experiences to improve that care available to those in need in the event that this would ever happen again.’’
The research team collaborated with Dawson College, the MUHC, the Assistance to Victims of Violent Crime (CAVAC) and the Health and Social Services Agency for the Montreal Region (SSSM) over the past three years to conceive an action and prevention plan that would help students and teachers that are psychologically wounded by events such as the ones that took place on Sept. 13 2006. The plan, named the SECURE intervention program, is also meant to aid the close friends and relatives of those in the presence of violent acts.
‘‘The SECURE plan also aims to coordinate its services to aid the closerelations of the victims who also could be affected by the tragedy,’’ Lesage said. The team concluded the presentation by handing their recommendations along with the SECURE action plan to the Quebec Ministry of Public Security, Mr. Robert Dutil. In reaction to receiving the documents, Dutil said: ‘‘We are happy to receive the information today and I will work with my colleagues to see what we could do with this report rapidly.’’
On Sept. 13, 2006, a student entered Dawson College with multiple firearms and shot at passing students before taking his own life. 16 students were injured and First-year student Anastasia De Sousa passed away. This year, a tree will be decorated in the future site of the peace garden on the Dawson grounds in her commemoration.