A woman writes a message on a makeshift memorial remembering the victims of a shooting on Sunday evening on Danforth Avenue, in Toronto on Tuesday, July 24, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Psychiatric body warns against stigmatizing mentally ill after Toronto shooting

Faisal Hussain killed two people and injured 13 when he unleashed a hail of bullets along Toronto’s Danforth Avenue

The man responsible for a deadly shooting in the heart of Toronto’s Greektown may have struggled with mental illness, but the body representing the country’s psychiatrists cautioned that tying his psychiatric history with his recent actions risks stigmatizing those contending with similar issues.

Faisal Hussain killed two people and injured 13 when he unleashed a hail of bullets along the city’s Danforth Avenue on Sunday night. The attack ended after he exchanged fire with two officers and was found dead nearby. Hussain’s parents have since outlined their son’s battle with depression and psychosis.

The Canadian Psychiatric Association warned Thursday that making Hussain’s mental state a focal point of discussions around the shooting misrepresents the majority of people grappling with similar circumstances and risks deepening the stigma they already face.

“The perception that mental illness carries with it a potential for violence has been proven wrong in many studies,” association president Dr. Nachiketa Sinha said in a statement. “The best risk factor for future violence is previous violence – whether one is mentally ill or not.”

Discussion of Hussain’s psychiatric struggles entered the narrative around the Danforth shooting less than a day after it came to an end.

As a shocked city was still learning about the circumstances that killed 18-year-old Reese Fallon and 10-year-old Julianna Kozis, Hussain’s family issued a statement offering a few details on their son.

RELATED: Family of Toronto shooter says he suffered from severe mental illness

The family disclosed that the 29-year-old had struggled with “severe mental health challenges” for years, adding that medication, therapy and other interventions were unsuccessful. Hussain’s parents also decried their son’s “senseless violence,” described his actions as “horrific,” and offered condolences to families of the attack’s victims.

Subsequent media reports dug deeper into Hussain’s life, publishing accounts from former teachers who shared accounts of alarming behaviour he exhibited while still in his teens.

The psychiatric association said Hussain is an outlier among mental health patients, citing several studies that challenge the link between mental illness and violent conduct.

Sinha said current research suggests people with a “major mental illness” are 2.5 times more likely to be victims of violence than other members of society.

The association also cited research from the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health that found only a small number of violent crimes are committed by someone with a serious mental illness. Only four per cent of those convicted of homicide, the study said, were deemed not criminally responsible for their actions due to a psychiatric disorder.

Sinha said the association condemns Hussain’s actions, but said discussing them solely in the context of his mental illness risks doing other patients a disservice.

“It is critical that we do not connect the risk of violence with mental illness,” Sinha said. “It is a dangerous stigma to reinforce in a society that has come so far in acknowledging the lives, contributions and successful recovery of the many individuals impacted by mental illness.”

RELATED: No evidence linking ISIL to deadly Toronto shooting, police chief says

Fardous Hosseiny, national director of research and public policy at the Canadian Mental Health Association, echoed the association’s warning.

He said efforts to combat stigma have made a noticeable impact in recent years, prompting more people to speak openly about their struggles and seek help if needed. Conflating mental illness and violence, he cautioned, could undo much of that progress.

“What we will see as a result of this is that people will go into hiding even more,” he said. “What we’ve been trying to advocate is for them to come out and say ‘you know what? I need help. I need services and support.’ As soon as they get those supports, recovery is possible.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

VicPD seeks person of interest after short-term rental ransacked

Combined losses for damage and theft are over $5,000

Whitecaps favourite switches to the Island

Marcel de Jong worked to end Whitecaps contract, joining Pacific FC on the ground floor

RCMP ask for public’s help to determine cause of weekend fire

RCMP are investigating the cause of the South Island Concrete fire

UVic’s cutting-edge centre leading the way in drones and AI

Centre For Aerospace Research works with partners including Department of National Defence

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of Feb. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

B.C. BUDGET: Income assistance raise still leaves many below poverty line

$50 per month increase included in funding for poverty and homelessness reduction

B.C. BUDGET: Indigenous communities promised billions from gambling

Extended family caregiver pay up 75 per cent to keep kids with relatives

B.C. BUDGET: New benefit increases family tax credits up to 96 per cent

BC Child Opportunity Benefit part of province’s efforts to reduce child poverty

B.C. BUDGET: Carbon tax boosts low-income credits, electric vehicle subsidies

Homeowners can get up to $14,000 for heating, insulation upgrades

B.C. man survives heart attack thanks to Facebook

A Princeton man suffered a heart attack while at an isolated property with no cell service

B.C. man sues Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party over trademark

Satinder Dhillon filed application for trademark same day Maxime Bernier announced the new party

Most Read