Canada

Inquiry hears about N.S. veteran's in-patient psychiatric treatment before he killed family, self

Nova Scotia·Live Blog

The doctors who treated Lionel Desmond at an in-patient psychiatric facility in Montreal that is designed to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder are testifying this week about the care he received roughly six months before he killed his family and himself. 

Lionel Desmond spent less than 3 months at Ste. Anne's Hospital in Quebec, then decided to leave early

The fatality inquiry into the deaths of former soldier who killed his family and himself will hear from some of his doctors. (Dave Irish/CBC)

Doctors who treated Lionel Desmond at a Montreal psychiatric facility designed to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder are testifying this week about the care the Nova Scotia man received roughly six months before he killed his family and himself. 

Desmond, a veteran who had served in Afghanistan, entered the residential program at Ste. Anne's Hospital on May 31, 2016. The psychiatrist and psychologist he had seen at the Occupational Stress Injury Clinic in Fredricton for about a year after he was medically discharged from the military in 2015 both testified last week that they thought he needed in-patient treatment.    

He'd been recommended for a six-month program, but chose to leave on Aug. 15, 2016. He's reported to have left because he wanted to spend time with his 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, before she began school. 

His clinicians at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Montreal, however, had concerns about him returning to live in Guysborough County, N.S., according to previous testimony, given that he'd reported having conflict in his marriage.

In his release report, the clinicians at Ste. Anne's noted Desmond had made only "minor progress" during his time there, and that he needed ongoing therapy within the community. It also was also recommended that he undergo neurological testing to see if he'd sustained a brain injury from the head injuries he reported he'd sustained during his military service.

The CBC's Laura Fraser is liveblogging the inquiry:

Framed photos of Shanna and 10-year-old Aaliyah Desmond are displayed in the Borden family home, where they were killed on Jan. 3, 2017. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

Gap in treatment after discharge

Instead, he went months without seeing a therapist. 

It wasn't until he was in crisis and went to the emergency room that he would meet with a psychiatrist in late October 2016. In late November, his Veterans Affairs case manager would connect him with a community therapist, according to evidence already presented at the inquiry. 

The inquiry is charged with making recommendations to prevent future deaths, like those of Desmond's wife, Shanna, Aaliyah, and his mother, Brenda, all of whom he fatally shot on Jan. 3, 2017, before he turned the gun on himself. 

It is also charged with examining whether Desmond had access to the necessary mental health care, and whether his family had access to domestic violence intervention. 

About the Author

Laura Fraser is an award-winning journalist who writes about justice, health and the human experience. Story ideas are welcome at laura.fraser@cbc.ca

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