Two days after Andre Courtemanche disappeared on a cold January night, his parents received a phone call to book an appointment for the 16-year-old with a psychiatrist – a call they had been waiting on for two years.
But the call was too late. On the evening of Jan. 9, Andre’s body was discovered at Goldstream Provincial Park in Langford by volunteer groups, including Metchosin and Juan de Fuca search and rescue teams.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Kirsten Marten, the organizer of the Facebook search group. “No child should ever feel as destitute as Andre was that day, believing that there was nothing left. Depression took over his life. This lack of support cannot happen to any more kids.”
Marten didn’t know the Courtemanche family before Andre went missing, but the mother of two quickly built a bond with Andre’s parents.
She said Andre’s story shines a light on a bigger conversation around mental health among teens and her belief that there aren’t enough supports in place to help the next generation.
Lareen Buckley, an education assistant at Sangster Elementary, said she’s seen students of all ages struggle with mental health issues.
She believes there isn’t enough provincial funding for mental health initiatives for youth when it comes to early intervention and prevention services. She has a psychiatrist for one of her own children who suffers from mental illness but has struggled to help him remain stable – instead of in and out of a hospital bed.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, mental health disorders in youth are ranked as the second-highest hospital care expenditure in Canada, with 3.2 million youth between the ages of 12 and 19 at risk for developing depression.
One of the leading causes of death in Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 is suicide, with 4,000 people dying by suicide each year.
Marten added that she plans to start advocating to have barriers built at Goldstream Trestle.
“Did Andre really want to do it or did he just have a moment of weakness?” said Marten. “If there was a barrier, would he have stopped and re-thought his decision? Now, we will never know.”
While 84,000 children in B.C. are experiencing a mental health challenge at any given time, only one in three are accessing the services they need, according to B.C.’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions in Canada.
The Vancouver Island Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-888-494-3888. Crisis text services are available at 250-800-3806 between 6 and 10 p.m., seven days a week. For more local resources, go to goldstreamgazette.com/tag/mental-health-in-greater-victoria.
– with files from Nina Grossman
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