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  • Teens who suffer concussion more likely to attempt suicide, be bullied: study

    TORONTO - Teenagers who have suffered a traumatic brain injury such as a concussion have a significantly higher risk of attempting suicide, being bullied and seeking help for mental health issues from crisis help lines, a study has found.

    The study by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital also found adolescents who had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are more likely to become bullies themselves, to be prescribed medication for anxiety and/or depression, to use alcohol or cannabis, and to engage in antisocial behaviours.

    Lead researcher Dr. Gabriela Ilie, a neuropsychologist at the Toronto hospital, said those behaviours include damaging property, breaking and entering, taking a car without permission, running away from home, setting a fire, getting into a fight at school, or carrying or being threatened by a weapon.

    "I think what we're seeing here is a cry for help," said Ilie. "What we're seeing here is a wake-up call. (It's a) cry for help on their behalf and a wake-up call for us — for parents, for educators, for medical professionals.

    "What this says to us is when your child gets a concussion or if you see signs of mental health issues — suicide attempts, substance use — and you take your child to a medical professional, you want to be vigilant as a parent, you want to be vigilant as a medical professional to screen for potential mental health and behaviour harms in adolescent patients who have had a TBI."

    Ilie said doctors need to ask young patients seeking help for mental health problems whether they have had a blow to the head or were previously diagnosed with a concussion. The corollary is also necessary: asking teens who have had a concussion if they are experiencing depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, she said.

    "And take that into account in your diagnosis, take that into account in long-term vigilance and screening and monitoring of those kids."

    Ilie believes the research, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS ONE, represents the first population-based evidence demonstrating the extent of the link between TBI and poor mental health outcomes among adolescents.

    The study was conducted using data from the 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey developed by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.

    The survey contains responses from almost 9,000 students from Grades 7 to 12 in publicly funded schools across Ontario. When the survey was initiated, it asked students to anonymously report their alcohol and drug use, but it has since been expanded to look at adolescent health and well-being overall. Questions about traumatic brain injury were added for the first time in 2011.

    “We know from a previous study based on (survey) data that as many as 20 per cent of adolescents in Ontario said they have experienced a traumatic brain injury in their lifetime,” said Dr. Robert Mann, a senior scientist at CAMH who directs the survey.

    “The relationship between TBI and mental health issues is concerning and calls for greater focus on prevention and further research on this issue."

    Ilie said students were asked if they had ever suffered a TBI such as a concussion that left them unconscious for at least five minutes or required them to be hospitalized for at least one night.

    Almost one in five said they had experienced at least one traumatic brain injury in their lifetime; the risk of such an injury was almost 50 per cent higher among males than females.

    The study found students who reported a previous TBI were more than three times more likely than those who had not had a head injury to attempt suicide and roughly twice as likely to be bullied at school or on the Internet, to bully others, to seek help from a crisis help line or to be prescribed a medication for depression, anxiety or both.

    The odds of being threatened with a weapon at school were three times as high for students with a previous head trauma, compared to peers who had not had a TBI, the researchers found.

    Adolescence can be a turbulent time as teens try to figure out who they are and what they want to be, said Ilie.

    Adding the effects of a concussion — which are known to slow cognition, interfere with the ability to concentrate and create emotional turmoil — can make it more challenging to learn and to navigate social relationships.

    "You don't feel all right. You go to class and you don't answer as fast," she said, adding that students may have to study longer than they did before to get the same results on tests, for instance.

    "It's a very harsh environment out there for teens. When kids see that you're not as sharp, you don't catch a joke fast, you don't respond quickly when a pun has been thrown at you, they can bully you."

    The study results suggest that parents, teachers, sports coaches and health providers need to keep on top of how teens who have had a concussion are faring mentally and emotionally over time.

    "Otherwise, we're going to let them fall through the cracks," said Ilie. "My concern with looking at this data is what net is there to catch those kids?"

  • Northern Gateway makes nice with Canadian unions as it works to build support

    PRINCE GEORGE - Enbridge (TSX:ENB) is aiming to build support for its proposed Alberta-to-B.C. oil pipeline by pledging to bring good jobs, meaty paycheques and ample training opportunities to Canadian workers.

    A memorandum of understanding has been signed between Northern Gateway Pipelines and trade unions representing pipeline construction employees.

    Northern Gateway says the MOU promises a minimum of about 2,100 person years of union employment to the Pipe Line Contractors Association of Canada and four unions, including the Teamsters and the International Union of Operating Engineers.

    A news release says the plan is in addition to Northern Gateway's existing purchase, job and training guarantees for local businesses and First Nations.

    Signing of the memorandum comes amid growing concern about other businesses abusing Canada's temporary foreign workers program by displacing eligible Canadian staff.

    It could also be a slap at UNIFOR, the largest private-sector union in the country, which signed a deal last December supporting 130 First Nations working to ban pipelines and oil tankers from B.C. and the West Coast.

  • City council hazy on how marijuana facilities will be taxed

    VERNON - The medical marijuana debate at Vernon City Hall isn’t revolving around the controversial nature of the plant, but on how to tax the facilities that produce it.

    City councillors have been sitting on a proposed medical marijuana bylaw for weeks, and Monday opted to wait a little longer.

    “We need clarification on how B.C. Assessment will assess facilities and how they will assess property improvements,” Mayor Rob Sawatzky says.

    How B.C. Assessment chooses to assess production facilities will likely govern where the City of Vernon permits them to operate. The original understanding was no matter where the facilities are located, they would be taxed as agricultural enterprises, Sawatzky says. That’s why the city was initially going to restrict them to agricultural lands.

    “The issue is we as a city have to provide services, and having facilities (on industrial lands) taxed as agricultural, we couldn’t recover the costs,” Sawatzky says.

    Since then, they’ve learned B.C. Assessment doesn’t assess property improvements based on the agricultural rate, but on what the building is being used for. That means the city could allow them on light industrial lands and collect industrial tax on any improvements. But only if the system stays as is.

    “Now it looks like B.C. Assessment is changing the way they assess improvements on properties,” Sawatzky says.

    Council deferred giving first reading to the bylaw until staff confirms how B.C. Assessment will handle medical marijuana facilities.

    The second part of the amendment moved by Coun. Brian Quiring to allow marijuana facilities in light industrial zones was to also permit the buildings to be multi-tenant.

    “I think restricting that type of a facility to being a standalone is maybe a little shortsighted,” Quiring says. “I think maybe there might be developers looking to put up a large building and have one component (be) a production facility.”

    To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

  • Evacuations rescinded, fires turned over to local crews

    THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - In total five homes were evacuated by the Bridge River Indian Band while 21 firefighters and two helicopters worked to control a 17 hectare wildfire burning north of Lillooet Monday evening.

    Fire Information Officer Kayla Pepper says the evacuation has since been rescinded and crews were able to leave the site with minimal fire activity showing. A dozen firefighters returned to the site for mop up today.

    Crews were also able to turn the four hectare fire west of Merritt on Lower Nicola Indian Band land back over to the local fire crews by 8 p.m. Monday night and the 80 ha fire south of Cawston was also turned back over to the Keremeos Fire Department last night with minimal fire activity.

    A total of 14 firefighters returned to the 80 ha Inkaneep fire today. That fire began Friday and has kept crews busy since, though Pepper says recent rain in the region is helping.

    “We had some precipitation, which is certainly welcome. we’re hoping for more showers this week,” she says, adding. “I know it’s not ideal for the long weekend.”

    Even with rain the ground dries quickly and anyone doing open burning needs to be cognizant of that, Pepper says.

    Fire crews continue to work with local governments, groups and individuals on prescribed burning plans to help reduce the risk of serious fire later in the season. Many of the three dozen or so fires that occurred in the region since the beginning of the month have been a result of poorly planned open burning.

    Crews actually checked in on a 200 ha fire on the Douglas Lake Indian Band land last night but found it was a prescribed burn. They allowed it to continue and have not been called to assist, though Pepper notes because they checked on it and filed a report it does show on the B.C. Wildfire site as a current wildfire.

    The early start to the season has kept crews busy, but Pepper notes they did have about 50 per cent of their crews return this year. Training for new recruits will take place later this month.

    To contact a reporter for this story, email Jennifer Stahn at or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

  • Where to find cheaper parking downtown Vernon


    VERNON - Downtown parking just got cheaper—if you don’t mind trekking a few blocks to your destination.

    City council shaved 25 cents off the originally 75 cent hourly rates in the parkade and added a 50 cent per hour option at the parking lot on 29 St. to give drivers reprieve from the dollar an hour fee everywhere else downtown.

    The city needs to invest around $7,000 for signage and a ticket dispenser for the 29 Street parking lot, which only offered monthly parking before.

    Council picked the action out of seven options provided by staff. Choices ranged from changing nothing to slashing rates by half at all meters outside the 30 Avenue zone—a move which would have shrunk city revenue by $190,000.

    Coun. Catherine Lord says parking rates doubled after a 2013 core services review, and in retrospect, she wishes council had employed a gentler touch.

    “At least now we are alleviating the parking a little bit without impacting revenues too much,” Lord says.

    Coun. Brian Quiring is dissatisfied with council’s chosen action, insisting parking is “just too expensive.”

    He admits council did what it had to do in 2013 to stabilize the city’s revenue base, but anticipates the discussion will resurface.

    “The next budget, we’re going to have to revisit it, because... I think right now we’re doing a disservice to the downtown,” Quiring says.

    To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.