SCC Justice Clement Gascon cites mental illness as reason for disappearance
CTVNews.ca Staff, with files from CTV News' Medical Correspondent Avis Favaro
Published Tuesday, May 14, 2019 5:00PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 14, 2019 11:22PM EDT
Clement Gascon, the Supreme Court Justice who went missing and was later found safe, has issued a statement citing anxiety and depression as reasons behind his disappearance last week.
“For over twenty years, I have been dealing with a sometimes insidious illness: depression and anxiety disorders. This is an illness that can be treated and controlled, some days better than others,” Gascon said, citing the responsibility he felt to explain what happened.
Gascon, 59, went missing for several hours last Wednesday after last being seen heading southwest along Wellington Street in downtown Ottawa.
Later that night police said that Gascon had been found safe but have not released any further details.
“Affected both by the recent announcement of a difficult and heart-rending career decision and by a change in medication, I conducted myself in an unprecedented and unaccustomed manner by going out without warning and remaining out of touch for several hours. I can neither explain nor justify what I understand to have been a panic attack, and I wish to apologize most profusely to all those who suffered as a result,” he said.
Mark Henick, a mental health advocate, told CTV News in an email that medication changes can have a dramatic impact on a patient’s mental state.
“It is extremely important to have an active plan with your health-care provider to manage medications, including monitoring side effects, withdrawal symptoms, and treatment progress,” he wrote. “Depending on the medication, the physical and psychological impacts of a medication change can be extreme.”
Henick also had high praise for Gascon’s decision to be open about what he’s facing.
”It can be very helpful for people, especially people with a public profile, to share their personal experience with mental health problems and illnesses,” he wrote in an email. “Mental health crises are particularly misunderstood and stigmatized.”
Facing questions about Gascon’s disappearance, the Supreme Court has since said that it still has “full confidence” in his ability to do his job.
Dr. David Gratzer, a psychiatrist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, agreed that Gascon’s condition should not have an impact on his work.
“This is a treatable condition, he’s seeking care and I think it’s wonderful,” he said.
Last month, Gascon announced he would be stepping down from the Supreme Court in the fall, citing family and personal reasons. He has served on the country’s highest court for five years.
“This health issue has been taken care of and treated with the necessary medical support. I confirm that I am in good health, and am fully capable of performing my duties as a judge,” Gascon said.