Saturday 25 October 2014

Searching for Reasons: The Aftermath of Tragic Events in Canada

I live in a quiet suburb of Ottawa, Canada.  The tragic and shocking events in our nation's capital this week shook all Canadians to the core and there's almost no one in my city whose life wasn't touched by the cruel aftermath of the now infamous murderous rampage.  Of course, we all searched news reports for any bits of information that would give us clues about how to make sense of this tragedy.  One thing quickly became clear: no one knew the killer.  He was a homeless loner who was addicted to drugs, racked with guilt and in search of redemption in the strictest elements of the Islamic faith.  Even his estranged mother had no kind words to say about her son.

In contrast to the killer, the victim, Nathan Cirillo, was known and loved by his family as well as many friends and work colleagues.  His tragic loss is felt most keenly by those who were closest to him. 

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau may not have deserved the love of friends or family, but Nathan Cirillo did not deserve to die. What could we as a society have done to prevent this crime and what can we do to prevent similar future crimes? As politicians wrangle over security measures, perhaps there are more personal pre-emptive actions we could take. 

The PLAN movement was founded to create and sustain a good life for adults with disabilities after their parents die - the model is built around the ethic that caring relationships are the key to safety, security and a good life.  Apparently, the killer had no caring relationships in his life and he certainly wasn't safe or secure.  

Perhaps our medical and even our judicial systems should have the ability to make a formal diagnosis of social isolation.  Treatments and assistive programmes to treat this diagnosis could be made mandatory for those whose social isolation is deemed to be a potential threat to society. The Circles of Support and Accountability model has been used to re-integrate sex offenders into society and their track record for preventing recidivism is impressive. Maybe there is a role for a circle of support and accountability in preventing crimes perpetrated by loners like Zehof-Bibeau. COSA describes their work as follows:
The Core Member (ex-offender) and three to five trained and screened community volunteers comprise the Circle.  They meet as a group and individually on a regular basis to:
  • Support the Core Member’s community integration by facilitating his practical needs (i.e. access to medical services, social assistance, seeking employment/affordable housing, etc.) and by providing a consistent network of emotional support;
  • Develop constructive and pro-social strategies and solutions to everyday problems and concerns;
  • Challenge the Core Member’s behaviours and attitudes that may be associated with his offending cycle.
  • Celebrate successes.

We know that social isolation has disastrous health consequences for otherwise able-bodied people.  This week, we learned it can have tragic consequences for many when left untreated.  Everyone has a civic responsibility to identify and act on knowledge of extreme social isolation in people with mental illness and possibly addictions.  The prevention of future tragedies like this one is everyone's business.

Our family uses Tyze Personal Networks to Coordinate Medical Supports and Personal Supports of Friends and Family

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