Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Lionel Desmond, his wife Shanna and daughter Aaliyah.

Handout

The psychiatrist who diagnosed Cpl. Lionel Desmond with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2011 told a fatality inquiry Tuesday that the soldier had great difficulty dealing with major life stressors, even after four years of treatment.

The inquiry is investigating why Desmond – a veteran of the war in Afghanistan – killed his wife, mother and 10-year-old daughter before killing himself in their rural Nova Scotia home in 2017.

Dr. Vinod Joshi, who works part-time at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick, told the inquiry that Desmond was suffering from moderate to severe PTSD when the psychiatrist first assessed him.

Story continues below advertisement

Joshi, a civilian contractor with the Canadian Armed Forces, said the infantryman had been subjected to traumatic events during a seven-month tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2007.

“He was extremely distressed,” Joshi said.

The psychiatrist’s assessment, completed Sept. 28, 2011, noted that the young rifleman told him about having to carry body bags, witnessing the deadly impact of an air strike and having flashbacks about seeing the remains of a man’s torso after an explosion.

Last week, a member of Desmond’s platoon in Afghanistan told the inquiry the group engaged in intense firefights with the Taliban on almost a daily basis. Orlando Trotter, a former corporal, said he knew of eight soldiers from their battalion who had committed suicide after serving in Afghanistan.

The inquiry has also heard that Desmond suffered three separate head injuries while serving in the military and was suspected of having a traumatic brain injury. Joshi, however, testified that in 2011, Desmond said he had never injured his head.

Joshi said Desmond’s symptoms included night sweats, avoidance of crowds, hypervigilance, anxiety, angry outbursts and thoughts of suicide. But the doctor said Desmond displayed no psychosis or any plans to actually kill himself or hurt others.

The assessment also noted that Desmond had not sought any mental-health treatment until almost four years after he left Afghanistan.

Story continues below advertisement

“Many (military) members try to manage their symptoms on their own,” Joshi testified, adding that Desmond’s symptoms were considered common among soldiers diagnosed with PTSD.

As well, Joshi confirmed Desmond was dealing with marital difficulties throughout his course of treatment, which ended when he was medically released from the military in 2015.

“He wanted to have a relationship with his wife,” Joshi said, noting that Shanna Desmond had at one point texted her husband to ask for a divorce. “He was worried she might leave him.”

That was the first time the inquiry heard evidence that the Desmonds had experienced long-running marital problems. “This undercurrent of marital difficulty was there throughout,” Joshi said.

Despite these challenges, Joshi said his patient seemed to respond well to his initial treatment, which included trauma-focused therapy and prescriptions for various drugs, including an antidepressant, a low-dosage antipsychotic drug and sleeping pills.

However, Joshi told the inquiry that Desmond’s progress fluctuated.

Story continues below advertisement

Again, the psychiatrist said that wasn’t unusual for soldiers with PTSD.

The military considered having Desmond return to regular duty in 2013, but Joshi said his patient experienced a significant relapse in the fall of that year. Desmond, who was Black, was apparently subjected to a racist comment while working with colleagues, he said.

Desmond continued with treatment, but Joshi came to the conclusion that life stressors would continue to lead to setbacks. “It appeared to be a long-term pattern,” Joshi said, adding that it was clear Desmond could not return to regular duty.

On April 16, 2015, Joshi included the following comments on a form that summarized his last meeting with Desmond:

“Normal anxiety about future job prospects, money, etc.,” the note said. “His wife has started working in … Halifax. He is not sure of her intentions about their relationship.”

Joshi told the inquiry that at the time it appeared Desmond was coping well, despite the big changes he was facing. “He was still managing,” Joshi said. “A lot of it was normal anxiety.”

Story continues below advertisement

On Jan. 3, 2017, Desmond bought a rifle and later that day shot his 31-year-old wife, their 10-year-daughter, Aaliyah, and his 52-year-old mother, Brenda, before killing himself in their home in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S.

In the months and years that followed, friends and relatives openly complained that after Desmond returned home to Nova Scotia in August 2016, his attempts to seek help for his mental illness led him nowhere.

Evidence from the inquiry confirmed that Desmond received no therapeutic treatment in the four months before the killings.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies