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Makeshift support centre helps people move forward following Lynn Valley stabbings

Wellness & Resilience Centre continues to offer supports by phone
The week after a tragic and shocking attack rocked Lynn Valley, Lisa Bournelis was having troubling showing up when all she wanted to do was shut down.

“I wanted to ask, ‘How do I show up for my colleagues at work and for my son?” said Bournelis. “I was trying to find that balance between is it OK to be authentic and distressed and show that I am distressed by this – or do I need to have a stiff upper lip? I just didn’t know how to appear.”

Bournelis was one of 60 people who found solace and support at the Wellness & Resilience Centre at Karen Magnussen rec centre last week.

The makeshift wellness centre was set up by North Shore Emergency Management almost overnight following a stabbing spree at the Lynn Valley Village complex that resulted in one woman being killed and six others injured on March 27.

A 28-year-old Quebec man has been charged with murder and remains in custody.

A drive-thru candlelight vigil was held in Lynn Valley on April 3 to pay respects to the victims and help the community move forward.

“The incident hit me really hard in ways I found difficult to process,” said Bournelis, who works in health care and has seen first hand a rise in mental health cases during the pandemic and a lack of supports to manage it. “Just all of the associated things that you see and upset you in your work were compounded by this incident.”

She credits the support she received from a grief counsellor at the wellness centre with helping tremendously last week.

In addition to offering Bournelis some much-needed self-care tips, her counsellor simply listened and helped put her emotions about the traumatic event into perspective.

“She was just really wonderful about reflecting my feelings back and really validated it was OK to not be OK. That was just profound,” she said. “I don’t feel that initial sense of overwhelmed and distressed a week later.”

After partnering with the District of North Vancouver and the recreation commission to open up the wellness centre, North Shore Emergency Management sought support from the provincial disaster psychosocial services program, which provides volunteer grief counsellors, clinicians and clinical support workers for communities that have been affected by a traumatic event.  

The 60 people that visited the wellness centre last week represented a cross-section of the community, such as older families, young couples and individuals, according to Emily Dicken, NSEM director.

“This experience was such a difficult experience for so many and to happen in a place that should have been such a safe community space I think it left people really needing that support,” said Dicken.

While she couldn’t specify to what degree visitors to the wellness centre represented first responders, bystanders or people personally impacted, she said the psychic and emotional toll of the violent attack weighed heavily on the community in large part because of its prevalence online and on social media.  

“Everybody that sees a disaster is deeply impacted by that event,” said Dicken. “I think it really demonstrated how deeply connected and just how supportive the North Shore is.”

The wellness centre’s in-person program ran for one week, from March 29 to April 4. Starting this week, the program is available by phone only.

For those who weren’t comfortable accessing support in-person, Dicken hopes they’ll feel comfortable calling the support line to talk to a counsellor.

Call 1-888-686-3022 or email MRT@phsa.ca to request a telephone support call. Callers are asked to explain that they are someone who has been affected by the incident on the North Shore and provide a number where they can be reached.

For Bournelis, visiting the wellness centre was one of many things that she and her family – and the community at large – have done to help regain a sense of safety and togetherness in the community they love.

“A couple days later I took my son to the space and we kind of reclaimed it mentally,” she said. “I just wanted him to physically see and feel that it’s our space, it’s our community’s space.”