'I love the guy': RCMP officer speaks out after loss of Cpl. Trevor O'Keefe
Staff Sgt. Boyd Merrill says he's had his own struggles with PTSD
After the death by suicide of RCMP Cpl. Trevor O'Keefe, one of his friends and colleagues is speaking out about post traumatic stress disorder and mental illness.
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RCMP Staff Sgt. Boyd Merrill says that O'Keefe had a good sense of humour, cared for the people in his life and was known for being able to boost morale in his unit.
"Trevor O'Keefe was an amazing individual," he said.
"Not only was he an amazing police officer, he was a tremendous father. He was just a joy to be around for co-workers and the communities that he worked in. He was well known for his compassion and his understanding."
Change in recent years
But there was noticeable change in him in recent years, Merrill said, particularly when he started a new job as a media officer with the police.
"Working in media is a very difficult job in the RCMP. He wanted to make sure all his facts were right. He wanted to make sure that he portrayed the image of the RCMP very well, and he did," he said.
"But it's a very high stress job, it's a very demanding job, and it was one that people noted changed him."
Merrill said that it's not unusual for those subjected to high stress situations to suffer a stress injury, be that PTSD or anxiety or depression. It's not something that makes a person suicidal, he said, but it does make them more fragile.
"What happens to somebody that's really fragile is that other situational factors in your life maybe come to the point where they make the wrong decision."
'I love the guy'
Merrill is no stranger to PTSD. He said that he has struggled with it himself, but he's angry his friend didn't ask for help.
"I think the last thing Trevor wanted to do was to let me down, to make me think that he wasn't able to do the work that he really wanted to do. He would have hid it," said Merrill.
There's no way I would have thought less of him, I love the guy.- Boyd Merrill
"I'm mad, I'm really mad … at Trevor, because I didn't get the information from him, he didn't reach out. He wanted to, probably, but he just didn't want to make me think less of him, and there's no way I would have thought less of him, I love the guy."
He said the RCMP has a mental health strategy, and the force is open in working to educate members, but it's still not always easy to spot problems.
Help is available
O'Keefe was availing of some of the support services offered by the RCMP, just as Merrill had in the past, something that he said was helpful in his own recovery.
"I think we need to recognize we're all subject to injury, and we all have to look after each other even more. No one is immune to this," said Merrill.
Trevor never died of a broken heart, he died because he had a heart that was too big.- Boyd Merrill
"People need to educate themselves that [PTSD] is an illness, but it's an injury more than an illness. It's an injury that can be reversed, it can be fixed."
Merrill is hopeful his friend's death will help save others by getting them talking about their own mental health. It's one last way he could care for others.
"Trevor never died of a broken heart, he died because he had a heart that was too big."
A memorial service for O'Keefe will be held on Friday at 2 p.m. at Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church, Bay Bulls.