Dealing with the effects of suicide-by-truck

Patrick Forgues, a truck driver suffering from PTSD following a suicide-by-truck, has teamed up with his wife, Kareen Lapointe, to come to the aid of truckers dealing with PTSD.

Few resources were available to truckers dealing with PTSD, until Patrick Forgues decided to change that

A truck driver walks away from a pile-up involving 35 vehicles in 2012. Patrick Forgues is making more resources available for truckers dealing with PTSD. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Nearly four years ago, Patrick Forgues was driving his tractor trailer truck from Montreal to Quebec City on Highway 40 when he noticed a car parked on the side of the road.

Forgues saw a man get out of the car and start running along the shoulder. Moments later, the man threw himself in front of Forgues's truck.

​He immediately pulled over and ran to check on the man. He had died instantly.

"I couldn't have avoided him. I didn't even have time to react," said Forgues.

Forgues covered the man's body and called his boss to say someone had committed suicide in front of his truck. In the industry, it's known as "suicide-by-truck."

Dealing with the aftermath

Forgues had been a driver for 16 years before his experience with suicide-by-truck. But from the statistics he's compiled, Forgues said it happens roughly twice a week in the province.

"It's a truck driver's worst fear," Forgues said. "We know it happens pretty often. We always cross our fingers and hope it doesn't." 

But despite the frequency of suicide-by-truck, there are few resources in place to help drivers cope with the aftermath.

Forgues explained the company he worked for had little to offer him when he started developing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Patrick Forgues and Kareen Lapointe started a Facebook page, SSPT chez les camionneurs, to help truck drivers who suffer from PTSD. (Kareen Lapointe)

Often, the only way to deal with trauma in his line of work, Forgues said, is to get back on the road. 

"That's not the way to do it. That just traumatizes a driver all over again. It could affect a person for the rest of their life," he said.

Forgues was so haunted by the accident that it was two years before he tried getting behind the wheel again. 

But he lasted barely two months after returning to work in 2015. He had lost more than 40 pounds, and was suffering from insomnia and nosebleeds. 

Finally his wife, Kareen Lapointe, decided to take him to a hospital. He spent three weeks in a psychiatric ward.

While the treatment helped, Forgues still hasn't driven his truck again.

Making resources available

His experience prompted him to organize resources for truckers dealing with PTSD. Along with his wife, he started a Facebook page called 'SSPT chez les camionneurs.'

"We went to see the kind of help (military) veterans were receiving," Forgues said. "When we saw the services they had, we asked: 'Why don't we have the same resources in the transportation industry?'" 

Forgues and Lapointe are working with a psychologist to create a protocol that companies can use to help truckers who've lived through traumatic experiences.

​"[A driver] has to have a debriefing and speak with a specialist to talk about what's he just lived through as quickly as possible," said Forgues.

Forgues also spends some of his time visiting trucking companies to let them know about PTSD and what services they can offer drivers.

"I'm not blaming trucking companies because they don't know how to deal with this situation," said Forgues.

So far, some 50 truckers have been in contact with Forgues and Lapointe over the last year.