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News (Media Awareness Project) - CN QU: Substance Abuse Up For Dawson Survivors
Title:CN QU: Substance Abuse Up For Dawson Survivors
Published On:2012-01-25
Source:Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Fetched On:2012-01-27 06:03:16

The young men and women who witnessed a gunman opening fire at Dawson
College in September 2006 found different ways of coping with the
traumatic events of that day - and for some there was a newfound
dependence on drugs and alcohol.

According to research from a master's student at the Universite de
Montreal, a significant percentage of survivors developed a drug or
alcohol addiction in the 18 months after the shootings.

Saying the numbers aren't alarming but point to another complication
that deserves attention after a traumatic event, criminology student
Natasha Dugal said she wanted to look at the consequences of school
shootings and that her study offers a unique quantitative analysis of
the link between addiction and traumatic events.

Dugal found that in the 18 months following the tragedy, five per cent
of females and seven per cent of males at the college found themselves
with a dependence on alcohol or drugs for the first time in their lives.

"It shows that following a traumatic event, substance abuse can be a
problem and must be explored," said Dugal, noting that the addiction
occurred even though Dawson handled the event well and provided lots
of support to students.

Her study was based on a survey of 948 students which was already the
basis of a 2010 McGill University study measuring the impact of the
tragedy on mental health. The study showed that 30 per cent of
respondents had experienced a psychological disorder, including
post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression and social phobia.

Dugal said the proportion of addiction was significantly higher at
Dawson post-shooting compared with the Canadian average. In 2002,
Statistics Canada reported that 5.6 per cent of teens 15 to 19 and 8.6
per cent of young adults 20 to 24 suffered from addiction to drugs or
alcohol. Among Dawson students in the survey, it was 13.4 per cent for
males and 10 per cent for females.

"There's definitely more risk for students following a traumatic
event," said Dugal.

Samantha Garritano was a student at Dawson on the day Kimveer Gill
opened fire. She was in an art class on the same floor as the
shootings and was barricaded in a classroom while gunshots could be heard.

"I completely understand the anxiety and the need for any way of
relieving it," she said in an interview. "It was terrifying and I'm
still not comfortable in spaces where I can't see the exit."

Now 22 and a photography student at Concordia University, she said the
college did a good job of reestablishing a sense of community at the
school. But even with the help of counselling, she has not fully
recovered from the shooting.

"I'll be somewhere crowded and I'll just get this overwhelming feeling
that someone has a gun and I have to leave right away," she said.
"It's my new normal."
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