Focus turns to mental health in wake of deadly Quebec City sword attack

Click to play video: 'Quebecers encouraged to look out for mental illness warning signs' Quebecers encouraged to look out for mental illness warning signs
WATCH: After the weekend's deadly sword attack in Quebec City, more people are talking about mental illness, especially as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic rages on in the province. Global's Phil Carpenter reports that experts say we should all keep an eye on those around us. – Nov 2, 2020

People in Quebec City are still trying to come to grips with a gruesome crime over the weekend, after a sword-wielding man went on a stabbing rampage on Halloween night, killing two people and seriously injuring five others.

Marc Gaboury has owned a business in Old Quebec, where the attacks took place, for more than 30 years.

Like so many other people grappling with the news, he is mourning for the victims.

“Even if I don’t know these people, I was moved a lot and I came this morning to pay my respects,” he said.

Makeshift memorials were popping in Old Quebec, with some leaving flowers, while others left candles and handwritten notes.

The tragic events played out on city streets on Saturday night and ended Sunday morning with the arrest of a 24-year-old just before 1 a.m. ET.

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Carl Girouard appeared in court via video-conference later in the day Sunday and was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder.

Click to play video: 'Quebec to invest millions into improving mental health services after deadly massacre' Quebec to invest millions into improving mental health services after deadly massacre
Quebec to invest millions into improving mental health services after deadly massacre – Nov 2, 2020


While police have yet to determine a motive for the attack, some political leaders are making a connection with mental health.

On Monday, Quebec Junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant announced more funding for mental health services to the tune of $100 million.

The announcement initially scheduled for next week was moved forward in the wake of the deadly attack.

The government also expressed concern for the victims of Saturday night’s rampage and their families.

“We gave all the support to the seven families that were affected and to all the citizens of Quebec City who were in shock after this tragedy,” Legault said.

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On Monday afternoon, a mobile mental health bus was stationed in Old Quebec.

Carmant, however, maintains that no amount of resources could have prevented what happened in Quebec City.

“I mean, Dawson, Polytechnique, these events are unpredictable,” he said.

“Whatever you do, the best thing you can do is to improve access to care for everybody, but these single events, I don’t think you can say that it’s 100 per cent preventable.”

Read more: Quebec City man killed in Halloween stabbing remembered as ‘lovely brother’

Psychologist Pierre Faubert, however, said there can be warning signs to watch out for, before a person becomes a danger to themselves or others.

“When we notice changes in their lifestyle, in their habits. When they become more and more withdrawn, reclusive and they say things that are out of character,” he said.

Faubert acknowledged it can be difficult to know when to involve authorities.

One reason is  that most people diagnosed with psychosis or schizophrenia aren’t dangerous.

“Sometimes it’s better to err on the side of caution than to regret not having said anything,” Faubert said.

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Mark Sorin helps run a national peer support group. The organization trains people to help those around them who are in mental distress, be they family members, friends or co-workers.

He said providing support and being the bridge between patients and professionals is vital because wait lists to access mental health services are long.

Read more: Quebec unveils $100M for mental health earlier than planned after deadly Halloween attack

Sorin, added his organization has been receiving a lot more calls since the beginning of the pandemic as people struggle with social isolation.

“Also, many reports have suggested that the number of people struggling with mental health is significantly increasing,” Sorin said.

Quebec Premier François Legault agreed the public health crisis is taking its toll on Quebecers’ mental health and causing a steep rise in depression and anxiety.

“I think the figures are as high as 15 per cent of Quebecers having mental health problems. I think it was 2 per cent before the pandemic so it’s a very, very large increase,” he said.

With the $100 million announced by Carmant on Wednesday, the government hopes to to reduce wait lists and widen access to mental health services.

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The government also aims to hire more than 600 new therapists and psychologists.

In the meantime, Carmant urged those in need to reach out.

“Please do not hesitate to call, either 8-1-1 Info-Social, or to reach out to get one of the services that we’re actually expanding,” he said.

— With files from Global’s Phil Carpenter, Kalina Laframboise

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