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Desmond inquiry: psychological autopsy focus of public inquiry into 2017 killings

Click to play video: 'Lionel Desmond inquiry reveals cracks in Canadian veterans’ health care' Lionel Desmond inquiry reveals cracks in Canadian veterans’ health care
Canadian veteran Lionel Desmond struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after serving in Afghanistan. In 2017, he killed his family and himself. As Ross Lord reports, the inquiry into Desmond's case has revealed critical gaps in the system meant to help those who served our country – Jun 27, 2021

An inquiry investigating why a former soldier killed three family members and himself in 2017 is hearing today from a forensic psychiatrist who conducted a psychological autopsy on Lionel Desmond.

Dr. Scott Theriault, who works at the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Dartmouth, N.S., says he encountered discrepancies when interviewing people who knew Desmond before he joined the military and after he served in Afghanistan and was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Read more: Desmond inquiry: former soldier sought counselling the same day he killed his family

Theriault says a family member told him Desmond had enjoyed a stable, happy childhood, but the doctor said that information stood in contrast to the records of medical professionals, who said Desmond complained about experiencing mental and physical abuse, as well as systemic racism.

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The psychiatrist says trauma is considered a risk factor for developing PTSD.

Theriault also testified that the treatment Desmond received for PTSD while he was in the military seemed to unravel after he was medically discharged in June of 2015.

The inquiry has heard Desmond’s therapy sessions became less frequent as he transitioned to civilian life and moved from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in central New Brunswick to his home in eastern Nova Scotia in 2016.

Theriault says Desmond’s treatment during that period seemed to focus on crisis management rather than on his struggle with PTSD.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 1, 2021.

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