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

The wildfire season in the Okanagan Valley region has been approached with greater apprehension and concern from area residents since the historic Okanagan Mountain Park fire in 2003. That fire burned 25,600 hectares, forced evacuations in Kelowna and Naramata impacting more than 33,000 people, destroyed 238 homes, and claimed 12 wooden trestles and damaged two other steel trestles in Myra Canyon. (File photo)
Ominous wildfire outlook if June rains don’t return to Okanagan

Dry spring is fueling potential for busy wildfire season in July and August

Joe Rich residents want logging operations in the area to stop for now until they get more clarity on slope stability and risks to the Mission Creek watershed. (Twila Amato/Black Press Media)
Joe Rich logging poses watershed risk: residents

Area residents want the logging to stop in the area for the time being

Kelowna Law Courts. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Former Vernon teacher found guilty of historic sex crimes against minors

Anoop Singh Klair was found guilty of all eight charges against him in a Kelowna courtroom on Friday

An algal bloom on Wood Lake has residents concerned for the body of water's health. (Wendy Innes-Shaw)
‘Wood Lake looks seriously unwell’: Lake Country residents

Algal bloom appears to be getting worse, and stinky

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

KCR Migrant Support Worker, Javier, had an exciting day escorting his son Ian with him during ‘Take your Child to Work Day’!
KCR: Volunteering is being part of a whole

KCR Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

The real estate market is hot in Vernon, and across the Okanagan. (John Dent photo)
North Okanagan home prices, demand continue to build

Single family home volumes up 200 per cent, worth average $647,000

A wildfire southeast of Vernon has been added to the BC Wildfire dashboard Friday, May 14, 2021. (BC Wildfire Service)
Wildfire sparks southeast of Vernon

The fire appears to be in a remote area east of Aberdeen Lake

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Most Read