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

Just Posted

These are just a handful of Vancouver Island’s missing person cases. Clockwise from top left: Lisa Marie Young, Lindsey Nicholls, Micheal Dunahee, Jesokah Adkens, Belinda Cameron and Emma Fillipoff. (File photos courtesy of family members and police departments)
Gorge skull fragment could bring closure to one Greater Victoria missing person case

Skeletal remains found in Greater Victoria have not yet been identified

On May 10, Saanich council unanimously approved a 2020 budget with a 5.76 per cent property tax increase. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Saanich adopts 5.76% property tax hike for 2021

Budget includes $2.6 million to accelerate climate actions, active transportation targets

Patrick OLeary won $1 million in the March 24 draw of the Lotto 6/49. (BCLC image)
Sooke man cashes $1-million lottery ticket

The excavator operator had to look twice to confirm the win

Rendering of a possible amphitheatre on the bluffs at the south end of the Royal Beach development. (Seacliff Properties image)
Colwood signs development agreement for Royal Beach at old quarry

Plan includes 18 hectares of park, 2,850 homes and lots of retail

A partnership is looking to identify skeletal remains that were discovered by recreational divers in the Gorge Waterway this February. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Divers find partial human skull in Gorge Waterway

B.C. Coroner Service determines remains likely historical, not ancestral

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

RCMP. (Black Press File)
Major Crimes called in after two bodies discovered on remote road near Penticton

A manhunt involving a police helicopter took place on May 10

Vancouver court on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Defence lawyers call foul as Crown counsel granted access to COVID-19 vaccines

Defence attorneys are pushing the province to extend inoculation access to workers in courtrooms across B.C.

A Nanaimo RCMP officer is recovering after his patrol car was hit by another vehicle at an intersection on Monday, May 10. (Photo courtesy Julia Rose)
RCMP vehicle broad-sided in Nanaimo intersection crash

Police officer recovering at home following collision Monday

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday April 13, 2018. Indigenous leaders are calling for an investigation into the conduct of Mounties on Vancouver Island after two police shootings of members of a small First Nations community in three months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Indigenous leaders call for clarity, investigation into RCMP after B.C. shooting

The RCMP declined to comment on the requests by Indigenous leaders

Colleen Price, Vancouver Island University’s bachelor of science in nursing program chairperson, says she is impressed with how students have persevered through the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Next generation of B.C. nurses already showing resilience

University program head says learning had to be adjusted amidst pandemic

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old B.C. bike rider already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Most Read