WARNING: This story discusses suicide.
Adam Hobbs of Abbotsford seemed to have everything going for him – a close and supportive family, many friends, a stable job and a passion for hockey.
So when he took his own life in June 2021 at the age of 22, it left his loved ones reeling: Why didn’t they know he was suffering? Why didn’t he reach out to them? Could they have done something differently?
Now, four of his family members have started an organization aimed at raising awareness about, and support for, mental health.
Big Red Mental Health Society was recently formed by Adam’s two brothers, Brandon and Zach, and his two cousins, siblings Julia and Jake.
The organization is named after Brandon’s nickname for Adam, who was a redhead.
The five cousins have always been close, growing up more like siblings, celebrating birthdays and family vacations together. Age-wise, Adam was right in the middle.
They often played sports together – road hockey was a favourite – and at one point, they met every Monday night to play beach volleyball.
Brandon said Adam was “very competitive and very fun.”
On a family vacation to Disneyland, Julia had to film a video for a class project, and convinced the four boys to perform as the Backstreet Boys. Adam took front and centre.
Adam loved sports and was on his school’s hockey and rugby teams. He continued to play hockey after his graduation from W. J. Mouat Secondary.
Brandon said Adam was on the quiet side, but was known for his one-liners.
He recalled the time that they all went to the Dark Table Restaurant in Vancouver, where diners eat in the dark and are served by a blind, or visually impaired, server.
“It was super quiet in there, and we’re just waiting. And Adam just bursts out, ‘Did anyone else take off their clothes?’ Everyone just started laughing,” Brandon said.
After graduation, Adam started working at an insulation company owned by a family friend, and later became an estimator. He had planned on taking some courses to expand his knowledge of the field.
On the evening of Sunday, June 13, 2021, Brandon and Adam played hockey with their team, who had rented ice during the pandemic so they could keep playing once a week.
“Everything seemed totally fine. He played in the game and was super high-energy. It was all good,” Brandon said.
The brothers had plans to see each other four days later.
“So I said, ‘See you on Thursday.’ And he was like, ‘I’ll see you then.’ And that was the last time I saw him.”
Adam went missing the following day, and a timeline of his actions was soon pieced together.
On the morning of June 14, Adam received a call at home from his boss, asking him to drop off some materials at a job site in Langley. He completed the task, and workers there said he “seemed normal.”
But he didn’t show up for work at the insulation company after that, and he was soon reported missing. A receipt for a parking stall put Hobbs in Vancouver on Howe Street that afternoon, and his phone later pinged from a cell tower on Sumas Mountain in Abbotsford.
Julia said CCTV cameras in the area captured Adam driving up and down the mountain.
Meanwhile, police issued a news release about Adam’s disappearance and dozens of people volunteered to aid in his search, including in Chilliwack, Agassiz/Harrison and Hope.
Brandon was out with one of Adam’s friends on the evening of Thursday, June 17 when he got a call from his brother to return home. Officers were there when he arrived, and Brandon said he “just kind of dropped.”
The family was informed that Adam had been found in his truck in an isolated area on Sylvester Road in Mission, and he had died by suicide.
One of the things Brandon and Adam had enjoyed doing together was playing card games, and Adam left a goodbye note on a deck of cards.
Brandon said the note indicated that his death had nothing to do with his family.
“One of the things he said was, ‘I love you guys.’ I think he just wanted to really make sure that he was still kind of taking care of us at the end,” he said.
A small service for family members was held a couple of weeks later. After COVID restrictions, a larger service – attended by about 200 people – was held at Central Heights Church in September.
In the months that followed, Julia said the family has talked openly about Adam’s death and have concluded that he didn’t reach out for help because he wouldn’t have wanted to feel like he was being a burden.
Brandon said there were no outstanding signs that would have led them to realize Adam was in turmoil.
“We can look back now, and he became a little more isolated the past few months – he was in his room more or he didn’t really want to come out with us – but we knew that Adam enjoyed alone time every now and then,” he said.
The family was particularly troubled when investigators told them that Adam had made a call to a crisis line on June 14, but it went unanswered. (They don’t know the specifics of why that happened.)
Brandon and Julia, along with Jake and Zach, felt compelled to do something to help others and to honour Adam’s memory.
Big Red Mental Health Society was formed “to create an awareness, acceptance and overall comfort for those who have been and still are affected by anxiety, depression, PTSD or suicidal thoughts,” the website states.
They are starting with raising money to support mental-health initiatives. Their first event, the Drive to Thrive Golf Tournament was held June 12 at Chilliwack Golf and Country Club, raising almost $20,000.
Of that, $8,000 is going to the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation and $8,000 is going to the Surrey-based Options Community Services, which runs the Fraser Valley Crisis Line.
The remaining funds will go towards a scholarship in Adam’s name.
The society is now in the planning stages for a road hockey tournament to be held later this year. More details will be released at a later date.
Brandon said Adam would be proud of the work they are doing to help others.
“We’re doing as much as we can in his honour, and I think he would be appreciative … Adam was very, very selfless – probably one of the most selfless people I knew,” he said.
Visit bigredmentalhealthsociety.ca for more information.