Teen faced major mental health and anxiety issues

Inquest into the death of Traevon Chalifoux-Desjarlais hears testimony for second day

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By River Kero

An inquest investigating the death of Traevon Chalifoux-Desjarlais heard that mental health and anxiety played a major role in his life. 

Linsey Thompson, the social worker for Traevon’s case, testified that his family had trouble handling his special needs when he visited them.

“He was always struggling,” said Thompson.

The public coroner’s inquest started Monday morning in Burnaby. Traevon, a 17- year-old Cree boy, was found dead in his bedroom closet on Sept. 18, 2020, four days after a missing report was filed by the Abbotsford group home where he lived.

Witnesses testified 

During her testimony, Thompson took a tissue from the box in front of her as she described Traevon as an amazing young man who was quiet, polite, and kind.

“He had a really kind soul,” said Thompson.

For his last birthday, she and his family had put money together to purchase him a gaming system, she said.

Dr. Onome Agbahovbe, Traevon’s psychiatrist, also testified Tuesday. During the period of the three years prior to Traevon’s death, Agbahovbe treated him for ADHD, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and trauma. He said there had been incidents in the past of Traevon punching holes in the walls.

Agbahovbe said he had concerns about him developing psychosis. Traevon experienced symptoms of schizophrenia, such as auditory hallucinations, but Agbahovbe did not diagnose him with the disorder.

Traevon ‘pined for his family’

Agbahovbe was aware of several traumas of Traevon’s past, including abuse and that he had been attacked with mace by other teens. He said the mace attack had greatly impacted his mental health. He was also underweight for his age, weighing only 46 kilograms.

“He always pined for his family,” said Agbahovbe, adding that Traevon had a great fondness for his family and a desire to be with them.

The lawyer for Traevon’s family, Sarah Rauch, asked Agbahovbe about his insistence that Traevon stop his cannabis use. Rauch suggested that cannabis could have helped him with his anxiety, but Agbahovbe disagreed.

Traevon passed away in 2020, and Rauch asked whether the COVID-19 pandemic could have made his anxiety worse.

“It’s possible,” said Agbahovbe.

He said many of his patients had suffered from severe anxiety and depression during the lockdown.

The inquest will continue until Dec. 7.

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