Why Mental Illness treatment should be Made a Priority in La Loche

(By: Justin Bellmore)

The town of La Loche, Sask. was shaken on Friday when a 17-yr-old boy, suffering from emotional and psychological pain opened fire in his elementary school and a nearby home, killing four people and putting five more in critical condition. But this community is no stranger to violence, and the reaction of the acting mayor Kevin Janvier and local MP Georgina Jolibois is equally concerning.

Janvier and Jolibois are afraid that the trauma left behind by terrible incidents of Friday will live on in the walls of the elementary school unless they demolish it and then build it back up again with tax-payer money.

There are some serious flaws in this rationale. The first is that La Loche had failed to set up a fundraising campaign, and instead they are asking for a hand-out from the rest of the province to pay for the labour, materials, and time it takes to tear down and reconstruct a perfectly functional education facility. Secondly,  Janvier mentioned in his statement that La Loche will never forget January 22, 2016, so then what exactly is the point of flattening the school? And the most obvious issue is that the country is still reeling from economic fallout, so this doesn’t sound like the most pragmatic thing to do, especially since the students are the ones who will suffer. Is it fair that they will have to wait a year before they can have access to the same resources of their school?

But let’s talk about why the shooting even happened in the first place. According to CBC’s report, no one saw this coming. The 17-year-old boy was bullied by groups of kids on a daily basis, and even issued serious threats to some of them, and no one blinked an eye. This is a screaming example of what happens when kids have no support system to turn to; they bottle everything up and then they snap. So please forgive me if I don’t feel a throbbing sense of patriotic solidarity when the MP of the region says that “hope is always something that gets us by in the midst of tragedy,” because it is going to take a little bit more than that this time.

Amidst all of the hasty emotion reasoning, the province has at least stepped in to do a couple of sensible things: the school where the shooting took place has been closed and distress centres for counselling have been made available. They have also offered free transportation to Saskatoon hospitals for anyone with relations to the victims of the shooting.

The notion of tearing down the school was not approved, and the school will be open again within the next 10 days, but now it may include security. This instance shows us that funding for mental health facilities is a necessity.  This should include help lines, education about mental health, and other support organizations. Tearing down a school is a cop-out method in place of affirmative action and amounts to little more than a ‘wash, rinse, and repeat’. The provincial government made the right decision – don’t run away from your problems La Loche, fix them.

*Image: courtesy Toronto Star

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