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Canada's parliament building Parliament shootings: People are resilient to trauma, psychiatrist says

October 23, 2014 — 

Sharon Kirkey from interviewed University of Manitoba psychiatrist Jitender Sareen, who was in Ottawa when shooting broke out on Parliament Hill. He was invited to speak to the Senate about mentally wounded soldiers.


As Kirkey writes:

Ironically, psychiatrist Dr. Jitender Sareen was preparing to leave his Ottawa hotel for the Senate Wednesday morning to talk about mentally wounded soldiers when news of the brazen shooting at the War Memorial broke.

Sareen and other experts said the gunshots that rang out in downtown Ottawa Wednesday may have shattered a nation’s sense of security and belief that terrorism is something that happens “over there.”

But he and others also warn that humans are remarkably resilient, even in the face of extreme trauma.

“That sense that we don’t live in places like New York, and that terrorism is something that happens outside Canada — that belief is kind of being shattered right now,” Sareen, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Manitoba said from the Ottawa International Airport late Wednesday afternoon while waiting to board a flight home to Winnipeg.

People live with uncertainty, he said, and most are resilient to trauma. But there is a clear dose-response relationship.

“The closer someone is to the traumatic event — if someone witnessed the shootings, for example — the more likely they are to experience distress, nightmares and flashbacks,” said Sareen, a board member of the Canadian Psychiatric Association who was scheduled to address a Senate committee on Veterans’ Affairs Wednesday on PTSD among soldiers.

“But it’s really important to paint a positive story here,” he said. “The message can be ‘trauma equals problems.’ But the majority of people, even in the context of severe trauma, are resilient and recover without any mental health difficulties.”

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