The stabbing incident at the outdoor party in Comox recently will have a lasting traumatic effect on many youths in our community. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE

The stabbing incident at the outdoor party in Comox recently will have a lasting traumatic effect on many youths in our community. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE

B.C. counsellor: Trauma of shared teen violence will be far-reaching

Harder to find support in events like stabbings at Comox teen party because so many involved

A Vancouver Island teenage bush party which resulted in multiple stabbings and one arrest — and other incidents like it —will have long-reaching traumatic effects for all those involved, and their loved ones, says a certified expert in counselling psychology.

An outdoor party on April 17 at a popular teen hangout in Comox had a devastating conclusion after a fight broke out, resulting in three youths being hospitalized for stab wounds, and another being arrested by the Comox Valley RCMP.

Related: Multiple stabbings at Comox bush party

According to child behaviour counsellor Laura Forseth, such an incident can have numerous physical and mental effects on not only the victims themselves, but also families and their friends, whether or not they were present at the time.

Some signs to watch for include developing new fears (for example, around personal safety or school safety), sleep issues like nightmares, headaches, stomach aches, general muscle tension, reduced concentration on schoolwork, and a decreased desire to socialize with peers.

And while such a traumatic event would affect anyone, regardless of age, the effects on youths can be more severe, simply because of a lack of knowledge and understanding.

“Because of their age, youth may not know what help is available to them or have the ability to access help on their own,” said Forseth, a Canadian certified counsellor with a master’s degree in counselling psychology. “They may also feel embarrassed to reach out for support. They may feel like they need to put on a brave face or power through their feelings without asking for support.

“They also might not really understand what is happening to them psychologically/physically and be confused and reluctant to share their experience with anyone.”

The challenge will be to prevent anyone falling through the cracks. Forseth said the actions taken by the local school district’s crisis team were a crucial first step, and now teachers will have to be diligent in watching out for students that are exhibiting changed behaviour (withdrawn, irritable, newly skipping classes, etc.). And it doesn’t end within the walls of the school.

“If a parent notices that their teen or someone else’s teen seems off, we can talk to that teen about how they’re doing, ask if they need any supports or if they know how to access supports,” Foresth said. “Some youth will be reluctant to ask for help so simply being available, gently curious and empathic can be a good starting place.”

According to Forseth, group trauma differs from individually experienced trauma in that many people are experiencing the stress and shock of the trauma at the same time. This significantly decreases the amount of grounded, calm, and unaffected individuals available to support those that need it.

“If many of our peers are also shocked and traumatized, it’s harder to find a peer with enough head space to also support others,” she said. “If families are shocked and traumatized, it becomes harder for a teen to find a mentally available adult to talk to.”

Forseth said that it’s not only the adults who can help the children in this regard. If peers can spot the signs, they can help their friends begin to work through things as well. As for parents, listening is the key.

“We, as parents, don’t need to rush in to fix the situation,” said Forseth. “We can simply hear and empathize with our teen’s experience.”

Forseth also pointed out the dangers of social media when dealing with such a personal trauma. Victim-blaming, parent-blaming, community-blaming and institution-blaming is ubiquitous.

“It all moves so quickly and we’re all prone to jumping to conclusions to fill in the gaps,” she said. “I’ve heard at least three different versions of what happened and each paints the victims and perpetrator in a different light. I think when an (incident like this) happens we all want an answer and we all want to know who to blame as it creates a sense of control or safety.”

Forseth said the community at large can also play a positive, supportive role.

“We can reach out to families who may have been impacted and see if they need support. We can choose to disengage with social media posts where victim/parent/community blaming is potentially damaging. We can educate the teens in our (circles) about mental health, trauma and the benefit of processing such trauma in a way that feels safe to them.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

READ ALSO: Saanich school grapples with death of 13-year-old

READ ALSO: Vancouver Island sees massive bed shortage for people with eating disorders


terry.farrell@blackpress.ca
Like us on
Facebook and follow us on Twitter

ComoxCrime

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ superintendent Scott Saywell at a May 6 press event showing off two new electric school buses. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district shows off electric buses

New buses anticipated to reduce 17 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from SD68 buses

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts trending down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Nanaimo city council has voted to deploy speed-reduction measures for the summer along Departure Bay Road and to consult with area residents and road users to explore ways to further reduce vehicle speeds in the Departure Bay Beach area. (News Bulletin file photo)
City will again lower speed limit on Departure Bay Road to 40km/h

City of Nanaimo will consult with stakeholders for ideas to reduce speeds past the beach

Reforming food systems will require taking a long view, and determined people organizing at tipping points, says columnist. (Stock photo)
OPINION: Food system reform can change world for the better

‘Long food movement’ could be a road map to curb our current global follies, says columnist

Traffic service worker Warren Van Sickle installs street banners bearing cedar bough designs by artist Becky Thiessen outside the Nanaimo Ice Centre on May 5. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo installs new street banners envisioning ecological survival

Artist Becky Thiessen’s designs depict cedar boughs and the Nanaimo estuary

Beef to the woman focused on her phone, driving a dark-coloured sedan through the Cilaire school zone. Perhaps you could use that same device to research some of the accidents and injuries caused by drivers who can’t seem to stay off their phones whilst behind the wheel.
Beefs & Bouquets, May 5

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Two semi trucks collided on the Nanaimo Parkway just north of Northfield Road on Wednesday morning, May 5. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
UPDATE: Nanaimo Parkway reopens after crash involving semi trucks

35-year-old driver was taken to hospital with serious injuries

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police photo of suspected cat thief was just a woman with her own cat

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hospital investigating whether Alberta woman who died after AstraZeneca shot was turned away

Woman was taken off life support 12 days after getting vaccine

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C. reports first vaccine-induced blood clot; 684 new COVID cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

Allayah Yoli Thomas had recently turned 12 years old when she died of a suspected drug overdose April 15. (Courtesy of Adriana Londono)
Suspected overdose death of Vancouver Island 12 year old speaks to lack of supports

Allayah Yoli Thomas was found dead by her friend the morning of April 15

Most Read