Mental health and attacks

A tragic incident in Toronto last week saw 10 people killed and another 15 injured as a rental van mowed down pedestrians on the busy Yonge Street.

Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old man, has been charged with 10 counts of first degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder. The motive is not yet known, but a neighbour had mentioned he was a quiet man who kept to himself.

Moments before the attack, which police believe was intentional, Minassian posted to his Facebook account a reference to “incel rebellion,” which is a term used by men’s rights activists and is often used in relation to Elliot Rodger, who was a 22-year-old man who killed six people and injured 14 in California before killing himself.

The police are apparently not considering this incident as a national security issue. However, where do we draw the line between what is and what isn’t a national security threat?

In 2017, there was a stabbing and vehicle-ramming attack in Edmonton. Edmonton police constable Mike Chernyk was allegedly hit and stabbed by a 30-year-old male, who then struck four pedestrians with a rental truck. There are some obvious differences between the two incidents, but there are quite a few similarities as well.

In either circumstance, I think it is safe to say that the attackers are not mentally well. After Minassian had left a wake of carnage, he stepped out of the vehicle and repeatedly reached to his pockets and quickly pulled something black out, pointing it at the police like a gun.

It was like a dare. But, Toronto police did not shoot, and were able to arrest the man.

Mental health supports are everywhere, but sometimes when you need them the most, it is difficult to help yourself. The services offered in Canada are great, and we have a lot of focus on assisting with mental health. The truth is, when you need the help, it can be difficult to find, and sometimes there are long waits to speak with a doctor or counsellor.

Someone who has not accessed mental health services in the past can find the task daunting. A simple Google search can show you the long list of services offered in a place like Toronto.

Then, the person has to find the courage and motivation to start making calls, when it’s possible all they want to do is hide from people.

Hopefully by now, after hearing horrific stories like these, people can recognize the red flags in their friend and family’s behaviours. Promoting extremist groups should be a huge one.

It is up to friends and families to ensure people get the help they need. Sometimes all it takes is one person to reach out. Sometimes it takes years of help and rehabilitation. Struggling with mental illness is never easy, but hopefully with love and support we can prevent incidents like these from happening.

Please keep all of the dead and injured in your thoughts, and we’re sending our condolences from Western Canada to all of the people effected in Toronto.

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