Dr. Mathieu Murgatroyd first met the veteran in June 2015. Desmond spent about a year in his care at the Occupational Stress Injury Clinic in Fredericton, a Veterans Affairs facility geared toward rehabilitating veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
But Murgatroyd testified that he and Desmond accomplished little in terms of therapy. Instead, the psychologist said he felt he sometimes took on the role of a case manager.
In part, that’s because Desmond was grappling with other issues: finding purpose outside the military, ongoing conflict in his marriage and isolation from his family.
He also told his psychologist at one point that his financial situation was so poor that he might have to go to the food bank.
A stressful transition
Those concerns are not unique to soldiers once they retire from the Canadian Forces, the psychologist said. In fact, Murgatroyd noted the usual stress of leaving the structure and camaraderie intrinsic to military life can worsen an underlying mental health issue.
“We’re talking about individuals that have several mental health issues and challenges, PTSD, depression … which can lead to poor coping strategies,” he testified.
- Psychologist for veteran who killed family tells N.S. inquiry she ‘would never have predicted it’
- Veteran with PTSD who killed family repeatedly relapsed if stressed, inquiry hears
The inquiry seeks not to lay blame, but to examine the various institutions that came in contact with Desmond and his family before he fatally shot his wife, Shanna; his daughter, Aaliyah; and his mother, Brenda, before turning the gun on himself on Jan. 3, 2017 at a home in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S.
While the inquiry unfolding in Port Hawkesbury, N.S., is provincial in nature — and the mandate does not technically extend to the Canadian Forces or Veterans Affairs — the need for better support during a time of transition has surfaced in testimony from multiple witnesses at the second session.
Inquiry counsel Shane Russell asked Murgatroyd on Thursday whether Desmond might have benefited from other supports to help him navigate the stress associated with the transition to civilian life, including a caseworker who could arrange marital counselling or check on the status of his pension and finances, or someone to drop by his home.
The psychologist agreed that, in hindsight, that support would have been helpful.
Other roadblocks to treatment
But another roadblock to Desmond’s treatment seemed to be that he just wasn’t showing up. He split much of his time in the year after his release between his house in New Brunswick and his family home in Nova Scotia.
The evidence underscores an issue faced by freshly released veterans: the potential for transience and the barriers that can create when accessing mental health services.
- How the Desmond inquiry could change the lives of veterans and their families
- Veteran who killed family and himself wasn’t prepared for realities of war, fellow soldier tells N.S. inquiry
In Desmond’s case, after his first two appointments with Murgatroyd in July 2015 — when he reported having “homicidal thoughts without intent” — he cancelled his third visit over the phone, saying he was in Nova Scotia.
They wouldn’t see one another until October 2015.
That pattern of intermittent visits continued until May 2016, when Desmond was accepted into an in-patient psychiatric program at Ste. Anne’s Hospital in Quebec.
About the Author
Laura Fraser is an award-winning journalist who writes about justice, health and the human experience. Story ideas are welcome at email@example.com
Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca