The family of Andre Courtemanche, who died by suicide after he left his Langford home on Jan. 1, is calling for better mental health supports for youth and safety barriers on the Goldstream Trestle Bridge.
The 16-year-old’s body was found by search-and-rescue volunteers Saturday in Goldstream Provincial Park.
“It’s not that it was suicide that took Andre’s life, it was depression that took Andre’s life,” said Kirsten Marten, who is speaking on behalf of Andre’s family as they grieve. Last week Marten set up the Searching for Andre Courtemanche Facebook page, which mobilized people across Greater Victoria to search for the missing teen.
The family received a call on Jan. 4, three days after Andre was reported missing, about setting up an appointment with a psychiatrist to talk about Andre’s depression, Marten said. By that time it was too late.
“It’s so heartbreaking that they had to wait that long and they’ve been fighting so hard to get help for Andre,” she said. “The system categorically failed him.”
Glenn and Denise Courtemanche told the Times Colonist last week that Andre left their home on Jan. 1 after an argument about his video games. He walked out the back of the property, which connects with the E&N trail. The couple worried he was headed for the trestle because he had previously talked about jumping off that bridge.
His parents had been seeking support for Andre’s mental health issues, contacting mental health crisis lines and doctors by phone after they found out he had recently stopped taking his medication. Andre has struggled with depression and anxiety since age 14, largely caused by bullying in school.
Denise Courtemanche told the Times Colonist last week that she’s concerned about the lack of mental-health resources in B.C., especially amid the pandemic, when many are struggling with depression and isolation.
Marten said the family would like to see barriers on the Goldstream Trestle to prevent other people from jumping off it. The community intends to install a sign that says: “Tomorrow is another day. Keep walking.”
Langford Mayor Stew Young said he’s supportive of any preventative measure on the trestle that would keep people safe.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, which oversees B.C. Parks, said the trestle falls outside the boundaries of Goldstream Provincial Park. It is along the E&N rail corridor which is managed by the Island Corridor Foundation.
The foundation’s CEO, Larry Stevenson, was asked about the possibility of barriers on the trestle. Stevenson said in an email: “We are very saddened by this tragic loss however we are not in a position to comment at this time.”
Condolences have poured in over social media, with many sharing their own mental health experiences or the challenges in getting help for a child struggling with depression. Many have left flowers in Goldstream Provincial Park in memory of Andre.
The Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions said it has expanded school-based mental health resources in response to the pandemic, including the Here2Talk free counselling and referral service which allows post-secondary students to access help via an app, phone or online chat. The ministry said it is expanding its Foundry youth mental health services by adding eight clinics across B.C., including in the Comox Valley and Port Hardy. Foundry Victoria, one of 11 provincially-run mental health and addictions clinics across the province, opened in 2018.
Alicia Raimundo, a business analyst who helped developed the Foundry Virtual service, said since the service launched in April — a process that was accelerated because of the pandemic — demand for online mental health support has increased.
“Every month has been slightly busier than the last,” Raimundo said, noting that 270 youth accessed Foundry Virtual in December. “Like every mental health service right now, we’re busy. We’re seeing a lot of people struggling with the isolation and a lot of grieving of the way the world used to be and the weird world we’re in right now.”
Youth ages of 12 to 24 or anyone caring for a young person of that age can connect with a mental health counsellor, peer support worker or registered nurse practitioner via video chat, phone call or chat service, a system which was designed in consultation with young people and their families.
A referral is not needed to make an appointment. Anyone who prefers in-person support will be referred to their nearest Foundry Centre or another mental health service in the community, Raimundo said.
Youth in need of mental health support can visit foundrybc.ca/virtual or call the Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1‑888‑494‑3888 or visit vicrisis.ca.