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Reid BrickerBy BERNIE BELLAN There’s nothing so jarring as hearing of the sudden death of someone young, be it in the form of a fatal disease, an accident, or as was almost certainly the case with 33-year-old Reid Bricker: suicide.


By now the facts surrounding Reid’s disappearance are well known to many Winnipeggers, as almost immediately after his release from the Health Sciences Centre early in the morning of October 24th, his mother Bonnie began alerting the media that her son was missing. Since that fatal day Bonnie and her husband George have carried on a tireless campaign to bring attention to flaws in our health system. As Bonnie says, there “is a chronic malaise” in the health system that, as in the case of her son Reid, prevented authorities from notifying her and George that Reid had, in fact, been released from the emergency room at the Health Sciences Centre.
Reid Bricker had a history of attempting suicide. In fact, his having been brought to the Health Sciences Centre the night of October 23rd by Winnipeg police constituted his third attempt at taking his own life within a 10-day span.
Bonnie Bricker has been indefatigable in attempting, not only to bring attention to what she and many others regard as a critical flaw in our health system, but in attempting to find any clue as to what actually happened to Reid that fatal night. She has already been interviewed many times in different media, but recently she contacted The Jewish Post & News for a different purpose than were her previous contacts with media; this time she wanted to bring to anyone’s attention a “healing service” that she and her husband, along with the other members of Reid’s immediate family, her other son Davis, 31, and her daughter Erin, 34, plan on holding.
Bonnie contacted us with the intention of putting an announcement into the paper about the healing service that, she wrote, is going to take place Sunday, January 10, at 3:30 pm, in the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue. I responded to Bonnie saying that we wouldn’t want to run a paid announcement; rather, I told her, I wanted to sit down with her and talk about what she wanted to achieve by holding something that I don’t believe has any precedent within Jewish tradition.
We talked for over 45 minutes. During our conversation Bonnie explained what the purpose of the service would be. Also, she discussed at great length what kind of person Reid was, and how terribly frustrating it had been, not only for Bonnie and George in not being able to provide any breakthrough medical treatment for Reid, but for Reid himself in “not being able to find any way through his illness to embrace the happiness in his life”.
We began by talking about the planned service for January 10. Bonnie explained why the service is being called a “healing service”, rather than a funeral or, as has become common within non-Jewish circles (and some Reform congregations), a “celebration of life”.
“We’re calling it a healing service,” she explained candidly, “because we don’t have his body…We needed some type of service, some type of ceremony, that we could go through to have some type of closure on this situation – not only for us personally and for our immediate family and friends, but for the community at large.
“We’re trying to get to a place where we can gather – not just to talk about the pain, but about the fun parts of Reid’s life…Without a funeral you don’t have a visual of that person’s passing; you don’t have a way of beginning the grieving process.”

I asked Bonnie what Reid’s life had been like prior to his disappearance.
“Reid was a very private person,” she said. “He kept those dark parts of himself under wraps - and he was very much in control of that…Reid suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder, social anxiety, spinal stenosis and depression so, when he would get so sad about who he was – and who he wanted to be – the depression would set in.”
I asked Bonnie whether there was anything at all that she or George were able to do for Reid that helped him to cope.
“Really nothing,” she said, “just to listen and to be there for him.
“We tried,” she said. “We tried getting him to psychiatrists, to psychologists…We had concocted yet another game plan – as late as that Friday (October 23rd) we were meeting with our GP, discussing what our next steps were going to be.”

During our meeting Bonnie expressed her deep frustration at how the system, particularly the Health Sciences Centre ER, handled Reid. By now, Bonnie’s anger at that particular hospital for having released Reid in the middle of the night is something that has been well documented in the media. Whether change will occur in a system that currently prevents authorities from notifying loved ones that an individual is about to be released – ostensibly out of concern for the privacy rights of the individual being released, remains to be seen.
But what quite disturbed me is the likely failure of the system to be able to provide up to date information to health care providers about what a patient’s history of attendance at other institutions might have been. According to Bonnie, the H.S.C. relies on keeping written medical reports about attending patients. One would think that, had there been some sort of computerized database that someone at the H.S.C. could have consulted that database Presumably, it would would have made it clear that Reid’s having brought there was the result of his third suicide attempt in ten days. At that point authorities who were responsible for determining whether he should be released or not might have taken a different decision than the one that was taken.
As a result, perhaps some good may come out of what happened to Reid in terms of how our health institutions deal with individuals presenting with the sort of problems that Reid had.

I asked Bonnie though, when she and George first became aware that Reid was suffering from severe depression. “Was it early on in life?” I wondered.
“Oh yeah,” Bonnie answered. “I feel that it became manifest right around age 14 – right after his bar mitzvah.”
Bonnie went on to describe the way in which Reid explained what he was going through. He said that it was “like being on one side of a window, watching everyone else, but never being able to join in with the people on the other side.”
“I cannot get through the glass,” was how he would put it, according to Bonnie.
Reid was terribly frustrated that he couldn’t live a normal life, doing the everyday tasks that make up life, from getting yourself organized to start the day, to preparing a meal for yourself and so on, she said.
In fact, Reid had never lived on his own until this past February, Bonnie explained.
“He wanted to look normal to the rest of the world,” she said. He wanted to show that “he was living on his own, he had a studio, he went to work, he had a beautiful apartment – and it was beautiful because he put it together so elegantly – and to say he was living his life.
“But really he wasn’t,” Bonnie continued. “He couldn’t figure out how people got up and made themselves breakfast and got to work and did their laundry and cooked and cleaned. All of that was so hard for him. He would say to our other son – who had been living on his own for a few years already: ‘How do you do this? How do you grocery shop and cook and clean and run your business and have a social life? How do you do all that in a day?’ ”
She admits that she and George ask themselves the question: “Would we be living this life currently if he had stayed at home? Absolutely. I don’t think his moving out made it easier for him – probably harder.
“In his suicide note – and his last will and testament, he reiterates constantly that what kept him alive was his love for his family and his family’s love for him.”
The service on January 10 will be a fitting occasion for Reid Bricker’s family – and for those in the community at large, to show their love for Reid – much as he might have been unable to understand that. As well, it will allow others to show their  appreciation for the courage that Bonnie Bricker, especially, has shown in bringing Reid’s case to the forefront of public awareness. Together with her husband George, Bonnie says she is committed to  working night and day behind the scene to make changes to a system that is much in need of correction.