The brother of a Revelstoke man killed in a head-on collision with a tractor-trailer on July 7 hopes the incident will prompt a dialogue on mental health and addiction.
Ki Shiloh Critchfield, 34, died instantly in a head-on collision on the Trans-Canada Highway about eight kilometres west of Revelstoke early on a Sunday morning, after his westbound car veered into the oncoming lane and struck the oncoming transport truck. The driver of the truck was not injured, police said.
Brother Gabe Critchfield contacted the Times Review, saying the incident was a suicide. A suicide note was found at the location where Ki stayed the night before. Ki had attempted suicide by the same means before, Gabe said. In one incident he attempted to drive into an oncoming transport truck, but it swerved and avoided him. Another time, Ki drove his truck at high speed into a rock face and survived, Gabe said.
A BC Coroners Service spokesperson said their report on the incident will take about two months to complete, and couldn’t confirm a cause yet. An RCMP spokesperson said the transport truck driver had been cleared, and that the ongoing investigation focused on Ki Critchfield’s actions.
Gabe said mental health issues had impacted himself, Ki and some of the ten siblings in the family. Gabe approached the Times Review and spoke on behalf of some brothers and Ki’s younger sisters.
“I want the truth to be told,” Gabe said. “I don’t want everybody to just ignore the facts. I want them to remember the good stuff about Ki, but I also want them to know about the negative side. There were mental health issues.”
Gabe said the collision on Sunday was a “selfish” act that could have taken another life. He reached out to the driver of the truck: “There is nothing you could have done,” he said. “I want this person to know our family is very sorry about the position he was put into.”
Gabe said Ki was known as a partier; a big drinker and joker who was the life of the party. The truth, Gabe said, is Ki had struggled throughout his life with serious depression.
Gabe feels alcohol abuse was the latest manifestation of life-long addiction struggles. Ki had been addicted to heroin and cocaine in the past and had undergone several treatment programs. Family members had helped pay for the best treatments available, Gabe said.
After kicking serious addictions with harder drugs, Ki had lapsed into alcohol abuse in recent years. Gabe said he’d turned it around in past months. He sought counselling support and was studying to become a paramedic.
“That substance abuse was just self-medicating the underlying problem, which was mental health,” Gabe said. “I think it is very important for people to realize how serious it is. If you have a dark moment and you slip up, there’s no undoing it.”
Gabe hopes that his brother’s passing will be a wake up call on mental health and addiction.
“It’s life or death and let’s stop being embarrassed by mental health and not be afraid to come forward. Think of it as being no different than [having] cancer. You can’t avoid it; if you have it, get treatment.”
He hopes the tragedy can help someone. “Even if it’s just one person who might read it who has known Ki and is able to connect with it and say, ‘Enough is enough. This is somebody I knew, and I can see that they’re dead, and my goal is to seek some help.’”
Sister Nadia Critchfield also encouraged those with mental health issues to seek treatment. “It’s not anything to be ashamed of,” Nadia said. “It shouldn’t be something we need to feel we need to keep inside.”
Nadia pointed out the complexity of the issues; there was no clear-cut signs ahead of the incident. Ki was a caring person with many friends, and was moving forward with his paramedic studies. He had seen a psychiatrist recently, and was taking anti-depressants.
“He was seeking help,” Nadia said. “He didn’t get the help he needed. It truly is a loss. If love could bring him back.”
Ki’s partner Vanessa Hermansen remembers an “amazing guy” who had redoubled his efforts to deal with his demons lately. She is concerned the professional help available in Revelstoke was inadequate.
“He was trying his hardest,” Hermansen said. “This was the first time he put everything into it. And for whatever reason, the system still failed him.”
Brother Gabe stressed the need for community members to take action on mental health issues in their lives.
“I want the truth to be out there; everybody to know. Hopefully we can make progress on changing the viewpoint on mental health, hopefully saving lives.”
B.C. Coroners Service spokesperson Barb McLintock said each year in B.C. there are a few cases of suicide by collision with a transport truck. “There may be more that we miss,” McLintock said. If no evidence of suicide is found, such as a note, head-on collisions are registered as accidents.
A spokesperson for the B.C. Trucking Association said statistics about similar incidents aren’t kept. “As far as we know it is not a common occurrence,” the spokesperson said.
Do you or someone you know need to access mental health resources in Revelstoke? There are a variety of regional and local mental health, crisis, family, addiction and substance abuse services available to Revelstoke residents.
For crisis situations, the Interior Crisis Line Network can be reached at 1-888-353-2273. Here is a list of other services that are available:
Online listings for services available in Revelstoke:
— Shuswap-Revelstoke Branch of Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division: shuswap-revelstoke.cmha.bc.ca/
— Community Connections Revelstoke: www.community-connections.ca/clinical-services/
— Shuswap Family Resource and Referral Society: www.familyresource.bc.ca/
— Crisis Line Information: www.peopleinneed.ca/crisis-line-service
Online listings for services available in B.C.:
— BC Mental Health & Addiction Services: www.heretohelp.bc.ca
— Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division: www.cmha.bc.ca/how-we-can-help/adults
— Men’s Health Initiative of BC: www.aboutmen.ca/mens-health/health-areas/mental-health
— Mood Disorders Association of BC: www.mdabc.net
— Anxiety BC: www.anxietybc.com
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention recommends specific steps when talking with someone who may be suicidal. It is important to:
— Tell the suicidal person that you care and that you want to help them.
— Express empathy for the person and what they are going through.
— Clearly state that thoughts of suicide are often associated with a treatable mental disorder, as this may instil a sense of hope for the person.
— Tell the person that thoughts of suicide are common and do not have to be acted on.
Suicidal thoughts are often a plea for help and a desperate attempt to escape from problems and distressing feelings. You should encourage the suicidal person to do most of the talking, if they are able to.
They need the opportunity to talk about their feelings and their reasons for wanting to die and may feel great relief at being able to do this. It may be helpful to talk about some of the specific problems the person is experiencing.
Discuss ways to deal with problems which seem impossible to cope with, but do not attempt to ‘solve’ the problems yourself.