ARTICLES, HEALTHY LIVING & WELL BEING. EATING DISORDERS
The Impact of a Car Crash
Neil was on his way home from a weekend away to celebrate his birthday when he saw a van cross the centerline of the highway and collide head-on with the vehicle travelling ahead of him.
It was at that moment when his life would change forever.
Neil reacted quickly to the scene of twisted metal, blood, and broken glass.
He first came across the van that had crossed the center line. Arthur Scheuneman was the only occupant of the Dodge Minivan. He was bloodied and being slowly asphyxiated by his seatbelt. Neil was able to free his neck and hold his hand while they waited for rescue. Once Neil was assured that Arthur was stable, he made his way to the damaged Subaru.
Neil approached the vehicle that was occupied by 35-year-old Samantha.
“Get me out,” Samantha begged him. Despite his best efforts, he was unable to free her of the crushed doors and tangled debris. He spent her final moments with her until she succumbed to her injuries.
Neil knew nothing about Samantha before August 7, 2017. He didn’t know about her love for the outdoors, soccer, or her family. He never knew that she was hungry for adventure, or that she loved taking pictures. Yet, he was her comfort during her final moments of life.
When paramedics and police arrived at the scene, Neil was covered in blood and drenched in trauma. After giving his statement, Neil was sent home to shower the blood of a stranger off of him. At no point was he offered medical attention or victim services for what he witnessed that day.
When I asked what those following months were like, Neil explained, “Everything collapsed around me.” He turned to alcohol and drugs to self-soothe the events of August 7, 2017. He became violent and apathetic, suffered from agoraphobia and refused to be in a vehicle. Neil was unable to cope with the tragedy of Samantha’s death, and the mental health system provided no support or assistance.
After months of mental anguish and extreme suffering, Neil was finally diagnosed with PTSD. However, he would be added to a waitlist and couldn’t receive treatment for two years.
It was the frustration of this moment that fueled Neil’s passion for change.
He began his journey in St. Johns, Newfoundland. He plans to walk across Canada in the “Walk For Samantha” to gain awareness for mental health.
“There is a fundamental flaw with how we treat mental health in Canada,” he explained. He acknowledges that the changes that he hopes to see in the system will take decades, but he is starting now.
“Even when I’m done this walk, I’ll be nowhere near the end. This will just give me the platform for advocacy.”
Neil, who was once a guru for start-up businesses, wants to continue his career as a mental health advocate. He plans to work with government officials to advocate for Canadian mental health systems and protocols.
During his grieving process, Neil reached out to Samantha’s family, ” I was distraught. I knew what I was going through, and I could only imagine that what her family was going through was 1000 times worse.” He got in contact with her family to send his condolences and reassure her parents that Samantha wasn’t alone in her final moments.
After her passing, Samantha’s mother kept her beloved outdoor gear. Neil is now taking it across the country with him.
I asked him what his daily routine has been like during his walk.
“I wake up early, eat a Clif bar, break up camp, and just start walking.” He has a polymer plastic sled that carries his survival gear. At the front of it is a sign for Samantha.
“Around 5 to 10 people stop me every day to ask me about what I’m doing. I’ve heard some incredible stories – it keeps me going.”
Neil estimates his walk will take him about two years to complete. During the winter, he will take a break from walking and spend his time with mental health advocacy groups in Ottawa.
To date, he has walked 1200 kilometres. He has another 7000 kilometres to go before he reaches his end goal of Tofino, British Columbia.
“This walk has been my therapy. It’s centred my mind and created a new purpose for me.”
To donate to Neil’s walk, you can visit his GoFundMe page at https://ca.gofundme.com/f/walk-for-samantha-walk-for-mental-health
Written by Celina Dawdy