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

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton, the historians behind popular Facebook page Lost Kootenays, are set to release a book of the same name and have just unveiled its cover showing the ghostly Hotel in Slocan City shortly before its 1953 demolition. Photo courtesy of Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton.
Popular historical Facebook page Lost Kootenays set to release book

128-page hard copy documenting history of East and West Kootenays coming this fall

Revelstoke’s Mayor Gary Sulz getting his COVID-19 vaccination on April 5. (Jocelyn Doll - Revelstoke Review)
Revelstoke is leading B.C.’s interior on vaccinations: Interior Health

Approximately 70% of the community has first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services responded to a fire at the Revelstoke Community Energy Corporation site Feb. 11, 2021. It was the fourth fire at the facility since it was built in 2005. (Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services photo)
Future uncertain for City of Revelstoke owned company

RCEC is using a backup system to provide heating after a fire forced the facility offline

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

City of Vernon Coun. Dalvir Nahal proposed two blocks of Main Street be closed to bolster recovery for downtown businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
Vernon’s ‘support local’ Main Street closure would cost city $24K, staff say

Bylaw costs, loss of parking revenue and equipment logistics behind price tag

Five properties have been added to the Lake Country fire protection zone, after council moved to expand the local service area Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Google Maps)
Lake Country expands fire protection zone, covering 5 exposed properties

The properties petitioned to join the local service area after being left out ‘for reasons unknown’

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

VSAR’s Air Rescue One unit assisted in a rescue in West Kelowna May 3, 2021. (VSAR screenshot)
VIDEO: VSAR’s Air Rescue One team assists in West Kelowna Rescue

The Vernon Search and Rescue helicopter team pulled off a successful rescue Monday

Peachland resident and cleanup volunteer Lloyd Stinson Sotas holds up a discarded TV riddled with bullet holes. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
PHOTOS: Peachland residents clean up community watershed

More than 70 people gave back to Mother Earth by assisting with the cleanup

Officials are surveying the streets of Vernon to get a better sense of the issue of homelessness in the city, as part of the province’s point-in-time homeless count for 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Province conducts homeless count in Vernon

It’s the first time Vernon has been included in the provincial homeless count

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Most Read