submitted by Lyn Firth, forever loving mother of Wendy Kitt
My 35 year old daughter Wendy struggled on and off with mental health and addiction issues from her vulnerable late teens when she was introduced to heroin at the hands of her first love. She was a sensitive, loving, ambitious, strong willed and feisty spirit who realized the path she was on was not for her so she did manage to leave heroin behind ... temporarily.
Wendy struggled with unresolved family issues and a hereditary pre-disposition to addiction. Intervention and support in the turbulent teens would have been the best time to help her… but who makes this call? She sought counselling, but it was not enough. She was open about using marijuana to manage and find relief from her anxiety, but kept secret from her family that she was continuing to go back to opioids when life became too challenging.
In 2014, Wendy was doing very well. But a year later, she had become distant, only sporadically contacting family. Much to my shock, in late 2015 she called me from prison. She had been arrested and charged with theft. She was released but arrested again in 2016 for theft and breech. It became crystal clear that addiction owned my daughter. I didn’t recognize the person she had become.
I was almost relieved when Wendy landed in jail, hopeful that as she would now get the help she needed. By the end of her time in jail she had been clean for six months, felt like her old self, and was very excited to embark on her new and clean life. She looked forward to a new start when she was released.
I am left wondering what the point of Wendy’s release from prison was. She was not provided with effective support to help her transition into a ‘clean’ life. She was released without the life skills, mental health support and reintegration necessary to succeed in the healthier lifestyle she was court ordered to maintain as part of her release. She was set up to fail.
She did her best to cut off ties with her old life. Wendy looked for employment and new healthier friends, but the stigma of addiction and the limitations of having a criminal record closed all doors to her. The last time I saw her, she looked like she had lost hope and I was concerned she would fall back into the destructive pattern that she had become familiar with. In early August 2017, she agreed to work with me to get mental health assistance. She agreed that she no longer felt that she could manage.
Wendy was ready to receive help, but we experienced a run around trying to find the right services because of where she was ‘residing’ at the time. I finally narrowed it down to New West Urgent Intake & Response, who told me that psychiatric help was not available until mid-September and that they could get her in for assessment, and possibly detox or treatment, sooner. They said that someone would contact her within a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks was too late for Wendy.
I was in regular contact with Wendy as we worked to get her the help she needed, until August 13th when she suddenly stopped responding to me. It wasn’t like her and it worried me. Over the next few weeks I tried to contact her to no avail. I periodically googled her to see if she was in trouble with police or had been arrested. I checked social media to see if she had been active. Nothing.
On September 10th I googled her again and, to my horror, found an obituary stating that Wendy had died on August 13th.
Wendy’s next of kin was not notified despite the fact that her identification was in her purse, along with a document with an address that a simple google search would reveal as her grandparents’ home of 30 years with a phone number.
Wendy was discarded by the Aggassiz police and subsequently so was everyone who loved her. The police stated there was no next of kin so my daughter became a ward of the public guardian. Wendy was on social assistance and only the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction was notified of her death. The Ministry hired a mortuary to proceed with cremation and no one bothered to locate Wendy’s family to let us know what had happened to her.
If I had not found her and fought to claim her, Wendy would have laid in a morgue seemingly unloved and unacknowledged until the end of October when she would have been cremated and interned in a cemetery in Surrey without her family ever knowing.
Wendy will forever be remembered a beautiful, feisty and compassionate spirit who touched the lives of many. The tragedy of her being discarded like this perpetuates the negative stigma around mental health and addiction, and the trauma this has caused her family is unforgiveable.
We took it upon ourselves to investigate Wendy’s death because the police failed to do it. We made calls, knocked on doors and discovered that she died from a carfentanil overdose in a home in Aggassiz where she had taken a job as a live-in care giver for an elderly gentleman. We also discovered that her deceased body was robbed of cash and sentimental possessions somewhere between the location she died and the mortuary. We are not receiving help from the police so we are investigating on our own.
Carfentanil may have been what caused Wendy’s death, but it was addiction that ravaged her life. While we couldn’t save our sweetheart... my only child, I would like to honour her struggles by campaigning on her behalf to change the way our province thinks about mental health and addictions.
It is imperative that we reduce the stigma around people with mental health and addiction issues.
It is imperative that we build a system of care that values mental health and addictions as it does physical health.
It is imperative that we provide help well before the crisis point so we can set the stage for success rather than failure.