“Let’s pull our heads out of the sand”


Just because we can’t see an injury or outward signs of an illness doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Such is the case with mental health.

Last week, Lionel Desmond shot himself, his wife, 10-year-old daughter and mother in what RCMP say was a murder-suicide in Upper Big Tracadie.

Desmond, 33, was a military veteran, his wife a new nursing graduate from St. Francis Xavier University.

The tragedy rocked the small, rural community in Guysborough County and reverberated across the province.

Desmond served with the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); he retired from the military as a corporal. He was reportedly seeking help for his condition since he retired.

A CBC report says that, according to a Department of National Defence spokesperson, Desmond was an infantryman with 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment. He enrolled in 2004 and deployed to Afghanistan from January to August of 2007. He was posted to the joint personnel support unit in June 2014 until his release in July 2015. That unit supports ill and injured members by providing access to available benefits, programs and family services.

Desmond had been turned away after seeking mental health help from St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish – the same hospital where his wife was working – because no beds were available in the mental health unit. He reportedly wrote about his illness on
Facebook before killing his family and then himself.

Retired soldier Trev Bungay, interviewed by The Canadian Press said: “The Canadian public need to know that if you’re asking us to go fight in a war, there is going to be a lot of issues on the return home… There is a huge price tag and it’s not monetary; it is individual.”

Soldiers put their lives on the line every day in battle and return home as heroes but then, many times, fall through the cracks in terms of support.

Who really knows what atrocities military personnel suffer in the line of duty? They come face to face with man’s inhumanity to man virtually every day and come away exhausted mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. And who knows the many faces of horror
first responders see every day in our own communities: peace officers, paramedics, firefighters? It is these frontline people who see other monstrosities off the battlefield. And what about those who unwittingly stumble across their own types of war zones – such as Desmond’s family members did in this case when they walked into the Desmond home to find the grisly scene spread out in front of them?

Bungay said: “I think it’s time now … let’s pull our heads out of the sand; let’s realize that this is not going anyway and we need to deal with it, once and for all.”

We applaud the Health Department and the province’s health authority for reviewing the services available and determining if protocols were followed in Desmond’s case.

Hopefully, from this tragedy can come something positive: a map or guideline or process or more stringent protocols to follow in dealing with PTSD or other mental health issues so tragedies like this one won’t happen again.

If you are in mental health crisis, the Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team provides intervention and short-term crisis management for anyone experiencing a mental health crisis. Call 902-429-8167 or 1-800-429-8167. You can also dial 911, or visit your local emergency department.

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