Half of Lac-Mégantic residents still suffer from PTSD, says health survey

According to a new health study, 49 per cent of the general population in Lac-Mégantic still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after the 2013 rail disaster which destroyed the town's downtown core.

Percentage of people with PTSD now 49 per cent, down from 67 per cent in 2015

Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac-Megantic on July 6, 2013. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

According to a new health study, 49 per cent of the population in Lac-Mégantic still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after the 2013 rail disaster which destroyed a significant portion of the town's downtown core.

The Eastern Townships health administration's study does have positive findings — the percentage of people with PTSD is down from 67 per cent in 2015 and more people are using the medical and psycho-social services to deal with their trauma.

Railway bypass

Dr. Mélissa Généreux, a public health physician for the Eastern Townships, said the community is eager for a railway bypass to relieve some of their stress.

"The train was a source of pride whereas now it's a source of fear," Généreux said.

"It's hard for people to recover when they are constantly exposed to the source of their trauma."

The study also stated that PTSD episodes remain frequent for those who were in closest proximity to the blast — 68 per cent of respondents. But that number is also down from 76 per cent in 2015. 

"So many people struggle with post-traumatic stress, so constantly seeing the train, being exposed to the train, I'm not sure that it really helps them recover," Généreux said.

Supporters of the proposed bypass rejoiced last week when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would work with Federal Minister of Transportation Marc Garneau to try to speed up the process of getting it installed.

with files from CBC's Claude Rivest