Ravaged by PTSD
In the Upper Big Tracadie community in Nova Scotia the sadness lingers as families and friends prepared themselves to bury four family members killed in an unspeakable act of violence.
On Tuesday, January 3, Lionel Desmond, 33, shot himself after killing his wife Shanna Desmond, 31, their 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah and his mother Brenda Desmond, 52.
Relatives and friends of the family say Desmond, an ex-soldier was dealing with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after serving with the Canadian military in 2007.
He was released from the military in July 2015, after a year of treatment from a joint personnel support unit that assists soldiers with various issues, including for mental illness.
There was ample evidence of Desmond’s illness, including a number of posts on his Facebook page and recurring effort to access treatment at hospital in Nova Scotia and as far away as Montreal.
In one posting he wrote that he was aware of his ailment and working to “fix it” and he apologized then, for freaking out his family”
“I’m truly sorry for freaking out my wife/daughter and people who know me … I’m not getting a lawyer. I’m getting my life back,” Lionel Desmond wrote in a Dec. 3 Facebook post. “I apologize for anything out (of) my control. I will fix it, if not I’ll live with it.”
He wrote he had “ADD/ADHD from thrashing my head,” and doctors told him he should seek neurological help in Halifax.
“I just hope there’s no brain damage … I will be going to Halifax to find out, wish me the best,” Desmond wrote.
Last May he was able to access some treatment at a hospital here in Montreal, but for the most part he has been left out in the cold since he was diagnosed with PTSD.
It was reported that the day before the tragedy he went to St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, N.S., seeking help, but was turned away. His story is a sad reflection of what too many soldiers face upon their return from theatres of war and conflict around the world.
A recent Canadian Forces report states that 82 members committed suicide between 2010 and 2015. Also, The Tema Conter Memorial Trust, which tracks suicide in the military, cites 15 last year.
Trevor Bungay, who was Desmond’s commanding officer in the India Company of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment in Afghanistan, describes him as the “go-to-guy” in the ten-man group of fighters.
He was quoted as saying: Desmond was an exemplary soldier who carried out his duties well in what was described as a difficult deployment, a difficult and stressful deployment.
Quoted in a Huffington Post story, he said: “[It] was a very heavy combat, high casualty tour. Even the littlest things such as eating meals and going for a shower, you could die doing it. A rocket could be launched into a camp. It’s a dangerous place. It’s one of the most dangerous places in the world and we were there. There were a lot of Canadian casualties. We had to do a lot of body-bagging of Afghan casualties, civilians, Taliban, and Al-Qaeda. Those are the things that you see that for most people causes damage.”
In the Halifax Chronicle, he summed up the situation:
“We have a major issue. How many more soldiers? How many more people? How many more first responders who see crap every single day and they have nowhere to go for help. Nowhere.
And government really needs to sit down and figure it out, how to better help people, he said.
On the afternoon of January 11, about 300 mourners turned out for a service celebrating the lives of Lionel Desmond and his mother Brenda Desmond at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Tracadie, N.S.
Celebrating priest, Rev. John Barry told those gathered that there was no explanation for such a “horrific tragedy.”
“In the face of such tragedy…inevitably we all are searching for answers and we are asking many questions,” he was quoted as saying. “We must feel the full impact of this event … We cry out to God, for he is the only one we can turn to.”