ALBERTA

David Swann Opens Up About Depression After Calgary Shooting

01/27/2016 02:39 EST | Updated 01/27/2016 02:59 EST
Jason Franson/CP, Facebook

A longtime Alberta politician is detailing his own experience with depression after a paraplegic man who struggled with mental illness was shot by Calgary police last weekend.

David McQueen, 53, was killed by police in the Calgary neighbourhood of Huntington Hills after he "indiscriminately" fired shots into the community. One bullet nearly hit a Calgary Transit bus driver.

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann said McQueen's death has prompted him to share his own struggle with depression, in hopes of ending the stigma around mental illness.

Swann told CBC News that he has fought a serious depressive illness, and it was "by the grace of God and people around me" that he was about to overcome a "tremendously dark time."

The doctor and Calgary MP told CBC: "Mental illness is part of life, and physical illness is part of life. There should be no blame or judgment attached to it."

"Mental illness is part of life... there should be no blame or judgment attached to it."

Swann said in a statement Monday that McQueen contacted his constituency office many, many times.

"I have heard many stories like David’s. Very, very few of these individuals will ever wind up in a situation where they hurt others, but Alberta has now seen several incidents involving people suffering from mental health problems.

"There has to be real change, and soon."

Startling numbers

Unfortunately when cases like McQueen's make the news, it can seriously increase stigma for those living with mental illness, Laureen MacNeil, executive director with the Canadian Mental Health Association Calgary Region, told the Calgary Herald.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, people suffering from mental illness are actually more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.

Most often, that violence is self-inflicted. In Alberta alone, data from 2011 puts the province at 13.3 suicides per 100,000 people, above Canada's average suicide rate of 10.1 per 100,000.

Numbers from the Chief Medical Examiner's office shows the province's suicide rate increased by 30 per cent over the past year, possibly due to the economic recession.

"There has to be real change, and soon."

Those close to McQueen and his own Facebook posts show he was struggling not only with anger and paranoia, but also with intense loneliness after his beloved service dog died of cancer just weeks before the shooting.

Annastasia Stevens of the Calgary Senior Resource Society said McQueen's story resonated at her office, as seniors often struggle with mental isolation, mobility issues and loneliness.

She's urging people who know anyone who might be struggling with mental illness or isolation to check in on them regularly.

"Armed with knowledge and compassion, I know our society can do better," wrote Swann, who is the co-chair of Alberta's Mental Health Review. The group is set to release recommendations for dealing with Alberta's struggling mental health system and increased suicide rate in the coming weeks.

If you or someone you are feeling suicidal or struggling with your mental health, please contact a 24-hour distress line in your area.

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