Spike in mental disorders caused by shooting

Groundbreaking study finds that students and staff at Dawson College twice as likely to suffer psychological stress after 2006 shooting

Nearly a third of students and staff at Dawson College experienced psychological trauma in the weeks and years after the 2006 shooting, according to a groundbreaking study published Wednesday. The three year study, conducted by researchers at McGill University, was presented to the provincial government this week.

In Sept 2006, Kimveer Gill opened fire at the Montreal college, killing 18-year-old Anastasia De Sousa. Another 19 people were injured before Gill committed suicide.

The study that surveyed 1,000 students and staff at Dawson found that 30 per cent experienced mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, alcohol dependence, and social phobia following the shooting. Lead researcher Alain Lesage says that it is double the rate for the Quebec population as a whole. About 13 per cent of Dawson’s population sought professional psychiatric help, while another 14 per cent looked for health information online. Those closest to the incident, who witnessed it or heard shots fired, were as much as four times more likely to suffer a mental disorder.

“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,” Warren Steiner, a member of the research team said.

The authors recommend recommend that every high school, college and university implement emergency response protocols to address mental health issues. Hospitals were also encouraged to integrate psychological intervention when responding to crises.