Tag Archives: PTSD

On Ghomeshi

Years ago, in the house of a queer friend from Atlantic Canada, I joked about Jian Ghomeshi and how he rudely and aggressively hit on her once. She laughed, I laughed, we laughed. She was queer – I thought he was queer. It was comedic gold. I didn’t think anything about it, and I sort of thought it was one of those “flaws” that celebrities have. I didn’t think twice about it.

I lived in Toronto. Used to joke with female friends about going and seeing George Strombolopolous’ show, because he was kind of funny. And I was from Vancouver, so seeing something at the CBC would be cool. I think I even invited my partner there once. Occasionally, I’d hear comments about Jian and his creepiness, and my brain would connect this back to my friend, and her story. But I didn’t think twice about it.

I’ll admit I used to really enjoy Jian’s “well, hello there” that he started the show with. I’m a white man; I have lots of privilege – I didn’t think about how that was pretty much an embodiment of his creepiness. His “Happy Tuesday.” I didn’t think twice about it.

Now I read that he would beat women, and then the next day text them – “Happy Thursday.” The idea of his voice makes me sick to my stomach.

I only wish I had thought twice about these interconnected rumours, these stories I’d heard from Newfoundland and from Toronto and Vancouver. But I didn’t, because privilege blinds.

Thank you to the women who have stepped forward and shared their stories. And I think twice about the courage and strength that it takes to do that. And that Ghomeshi is but one case of hundreds of thousands and millions that happen and continue to happen.

We all need to think twice. Especially those of us blinded by privilege.

How the Conservative Government Dishonours the Military

deletemeSo Canada is leaving its occupation of Afghanistan.

I never liked the mission. I never liked the context. I never liked the propaganda. I never liked the transformation of some kind of Canada into this occupying Canada.

162 killed and 2,179 wounded? But here’s the very very hard question. Who is the government NOT counting? They are the people the government is actively disowning, to the shame of all of us.

I’ll tell you who some of them are:

Continue reading How the Conservative Government Dishonours the Military

We Support The Veterans Transition Program

Submitted by Robin and Stewart on Mon, 10/07/2013 – 12:59

1999 saw the rise of the Veteran Transition Network (VTN) through the sponsorship of BC/Yukon Legion Branches and the University of British Columbia.

Its mission is to help Canadian Veterans across the nation re-integrate into society, local communities, and with family. To date Veteran Transition Programs have helped close to 400 Veterans rebuild relationships with partners, spouses, and children, while supporting the creation of meaningful career paths. And it’s totally free due to generous partners and donors, such as you!

Doctors Marv Westwood, David Kuhl, and Timothy Black are the founding members of the VTN who are accompanied by a number of top-shelf clinicians and staff. The website is impressive and encourages Canadian Veterans to contact them via phone, email, Facebook, or Twitter.

The programs have been refined over 15 years of research to help Canadian Veterans with:

  • Adjusting to living back at home
  • Trying to make sense of their military experiences
  • Getting a job and finding careers
  • Exploring who they are now
  • The desire to tell their story
  • Rebuilding relationships with family and friends
  • Wanting to find themselves again
  • Moving on and getting back to “living”

Admittedly, I wish there was a program like this when I left the British Army.

I was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and completely clueless as to where to turn. I was lucky in having a decent trade that landed me a job in no time – although it didn’t take much negotiating. I was confused by the varying benefit packages, private pensions, healthcare, dental, and generally why everything was so bloody expensive. I was missing the PX. Who didn’t love those stores! Cigarettes were a few dollars a pack and being on NATO missions meant I had access to so many of them. I’d get Dom Perignon from the French PX (I still have a bottle), backpacks and fleeces from the Norwegian PX, Swarovski crystal (for the folks back home) from the German PX, and pretty much everything else from the American PX (Bowling Balls to Pickled Pigs Feet). I’d come home on leave feeling like Santa. I was filled with pride at what I was doing, how my family and friends viewed me, how everyone back home viewed me.

You’re one day flying high with a regiment of friends, friends willing to fight and die for you, with everything taken care of, and more perks than you can wish for, to the next standing in the street, resume in hand, staring up at the towering buildings around you, and feeling the warm embrace of the army slowly dissipate. You’re alone and have nobody to turn to. It’s hard for family and friends to understand. Your buddies understood, but they’re not around anymore to sympathize and offer support. Like I said, I wish there was a program like this when I left. It would have helped ease the transition and show that there are others in the same boat, like me, trying to make things work and lead a happy and fulfilling life.

The good news is that this program exists now and has helped close to 400 Veterans transition from the Canadian Forces to a life worth living. They didn’t do it alone and couldn’t have without the support of generous donors, such as you, which we are hugely grateful for!

Here’s how you can contact the Veterans Transition Network:

Office hours are Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm Pacific Time.
Phone: 604.559.8155
For general inquiries (including program registration): info@vtncanada.org

– See more at: http://legionbcyukon.ca/blogs/robin-and-stewart/we-support-veterans-transition-program#sthash.2BuERRrt.dpuf

PTSD Update!

Updates from Kate and Robin and Stewart are below, as they approach the end of their campaigns!

Kate’s Long Way Home has passed 1,000 kilometres on her way to Ottawa.

Robin and Stewart’s Marathon for Veterans is closing in on its fundraising target.

There is still time to donate.

1. During WWI more than 300 British soldiers, many suffering from “Shell Shock”, were executed for cowardice.

2. The Canadian government does not measure the suicide rates of its veterans. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs does and a report released early this year states that from 1999 to 2010 18 Veterans committed suicide a day! 39% of these suicides were by Veterans 49 and younger.

These stats, and references to our research, along with more information on the topic are available in the blog.

Thank you.

PTSD Service Dogs: Not Widely Known, But Critical

Lots of stores, places, etc. have “no pets” signs up. That’s fine, but there are usually exceptions for service dogs. Preventing a visually-impaired person from entering a restaurant except without their service dog would be mean and generally intolerable.

A long time ago, however, it was quite common to deem these animals to be pets, and unwelcome. Society reflected, and decided that the rights of a person with a service pet are more important than the owner of establishment’s desire to keep animals out.

It’s not like service dogs are rabid, coked-up bulls in a china shop. By far.

So it’s understandable if a gym would not let someone in if they have a service dog. Maybe they just didn’t know that people suffering from PTSD can have service dogs:

“The employee who denied Berry said she didn’t know that some people with PTSD use service dogs and said allowing dogs at the club would have bothered other members.”

That’s totally understandable. This is why Kate MacEachern, Medric Cousineau and Robin and Stewart are walking and running to raise awareness and funds about PTSD treatment.

Because people don’t know.

They don’t know what PTSD is, how prevalent it is, what causes it, why it’s not just a problem of being weak-spirited, what treatments are available, who is being treated and who is not, who is responsible for treating or providing treatment, and the social stigma surrounding PTSD and its place in society.

Because the place of PTSD in society is far from clearly understood. So our responsibility is to become more aware and abandon any reflexive ignorance we happen to be carrying.

Because who wants to be ignorant.

Former soldier’s service dog refused entry to gym

Human rights complaint planned by man suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder

Kevin Berry was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2010, six years after his military service with the 3rd battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment in Kabul. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

A former soldier, who now lives in Vancouver, is filing a complaint with the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission against a Moncton fitness club.

Kevin Berry, 30, served in Afghanistan and says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He travels with his service dog Tommy to help him cope with his PTSDsymptoms.

“Tommy wakes me up during nightmares, Tommy walks in and clears my house when we get home,” said Berry.

Last week, Berry and Tommy were passing through Moncton as part of a walking tour between Nova Scotia and Ontario to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder.

Berry says they went to Global Gym on Mapleton Road so he could work out, but were denied entry even though Tommy wears a service dog vest and comes with a government-issued ID card.

“They never once asked what Tommy was for,” said Berry. “It was, `No,’ right away.”

Berry says after being denied entrance by a club employee, he contacted the gym’s owner by telephone. He says the man laughed at him and said he’d never allow pets at his gym.

“My human rights were violated by the staff at Global Gym and the ownership,” said Berry. “It wasn’t just the injury, [there was] definitely an insult aspect to it after speaking with the owner on the phone.”

Berry intends to file a complaint of discrimination with the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission.

“I have every intention of pursuing a human rights complaint with the government of New Brunswick,” he said. “That’s unacceptable.

“You don’t discriminate against disabled people,” he said. “If they were going to sell me a day pass, it’s open to the public and you can’t restrict someone from joining because they have a disability that requires certain medical equipment.”

Berry served with the 3rd battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment in Kabul in 2003-04. He was diagnosed with PTSD in 2010, six years after leaving military service.

“It’s an invisible disorder, right?” he said. “You can see it on a [CT scan] or MRI, but there’s not too many people that [get CT-scanned] or MRI’d before they go to a war zone to get a baseline to compare it to.”

Berry has been working with Tommy since January. The dog has been living with him full time since May.

“He’ll stick his head in the shower, goes everywhere with me,” said Berry. “He is … an extension of my body. He’s everywhere with me.

“Tommy means life,” he said. “Tommy is hope, a better life, an acceptance in society, an ability to go out and interact in a way I wouldn’t have before,” said Berry.

“I feel safer with Tommy, much, much safer,” he said. “He’s there if I have a panic attack, he’ll nuzzle into me. He’s in tune with my emotions and knows when something is starting.”

The employee who denied Berry said she didn’t know that some people with PTSD use service dogs and said allowing dogs at the club would have bothered other members.

The owner of Global Gym did not return calls to CBC News.

Former soldier’s service dog refused entry to gym – New Brunswick – CBC News.

Medric Cousineau: Walking for PTSD Support

It has been a long journey but an Eastern Passage man has finished a 50 day walk to Ottawa.Along with Kate MacEachern and The Long Way Home and Robin & Stewart’s Marathon for Veterans we have another action in support of PTSD and Veterans, this time including service dogs!

Medric Cousineau walked 1000 km to Ottawa to raise $350,000 for 50 service dogs for 50 veterans.

The spirit of support for PTSD issues, particularly among Canadian Forces members and veterans, as well as other first responders, is growing. It’s a sign of a truly compassionate culture. The hope is that the federal government, on behalf of Canadians, will show the compassion, respect, integrity and responsibility required to do the right thing

Eastern Passage veteran completes fundraising walk to Ottawa


HALIFAX – It has been a long journey but an Eastern Passage man has finished a 50 day walk to Ottawa.

On August 1, Medric Cousineau left on a trip that would take him more than 1,000 kilometres and through four different provinces.

Cousineau served in the military for about 12 years but developed post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, after a harrowing rescue mission. He became stressed, angry and often lashed out at his family and friends.

However, his behaviour changed after getting a service dog named Thai.

Seeing the benefits of having a service dog, Cousineau began lobbying for them on behalf of veterans with PTSD. However, Veterans Affairs does not currently fund them.

That’s when Cousineau decided to take up the cause, lace up his shoes and walk all the way to the nation’s capital to raise $350,000 for 50 service dogs for 50 veterans.

Upon arriving in Ottawa, Cousineau walked past Parliament and to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and paid his respects.

The veteran says he has felt overwhelming support from the communities that he has walked through.

“The response has been gaining as we went along,” he said. “It took time to build. As we’ve come farther towards the finish, the legions have opened their doors, their arms and their hearts. We felt truly welcomed in those communities.”

Cousineau adds the most difficult part of his walk may have been a few days where the humidex read more than 40C.

“That heat was really a challenge. We battled some of the elements but the heat was probably the worst.”

The veteran says he had a meeting Wednesday with Minister of Veterans Affairs Julian Fantino.

“They’ve committed to doing a research assessment of service dogs to help with veterans. They’re specifically going to look at the Canadian experience because they understand we have to study our people and our initiatives, and that’s a huge move.”

Despite the encouraging news, Cousineau’s not done yet.

He plans to continue fundraising. He doesn’t yet have the final tally on how much he has raised, but says four veterans have already received their service dogs.

PTSD: Transitions Are Weighty

Kate MacEachern and The Long Way Home 

Photo: On our way! It's a long couple days until Oromocto and Fredericton, but we're set due to all the amazing people in Salisbury and Moncton. A HUGE thank you to Bucky and 2 CAV Dunkirk, Marc and Stephanie, Eric Goggins for the signage, all the veterans and citizens of Salisbury who sent us off today, and the New Brunswick Paramedics for their support and escort! We appreciate you all so much! Onward... Home.There is a kind of trauma when people leave chapters in their life: graduating, retiring, marriage, childbirth, death. It takes lots of time to adjust. And it takes a toll on one’s people.

And if someone does not have enough people in their support network, or they need extra support because of the nature of the transition or trauma, they can truly suffer.

The sign that you are walking on a good path is the sheer number of people who come out of nowhere to cover your back and express how they are moved by what you do.

That’s what Kate MacEachern is in now. I’m sure it helps the days go by faster!

PTSD: No Room for Denial

What if NO ONE knows your name?

Belonging? It’s pretty important. We don’t always have to go where EVERYone knows our name, but we do need to have people. People who know, understand and affirm us.

People with mental health issues, however, are often made to feel not so normal, which is a feeling that can get in the way of being known and understood.

Normalizing something that has been stigmatized and downplayed is hard.

I remember in the 1980s when Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope. Lots of people had little exposure to people with prosthetics. That changed pretty fast.

Kate, Robin and Stewart are helping us all get a better sense of how PTSD isn’t some obscure, terrifying condition that we should ignore, shy away from or deny.

Denial brings us nowhere, fast.

Kate MacEachern and The Long Way Home 

My favourite comment attached to Kate’s Facebook post below is this: “It’s all mind over matter Kate’s great mind= hill don’t matter.” That’s the spirit of confronting denial and changing attitudes!

Robin & Stewart’s Marathon for Veterans

Part of denial is social isolation. Part of growth is engaging with others in honest, affirming ways. Part of that process is celebrating together, to solidify growth. This means there needs to be some dancing!

Robin and Stewart’s Marathon for Veterans will be taking off for Victoria on October 12th, so before they leave, they are throwing a big bash to say thanks for all the support, and get some carbs in them… beer is a carb, right?
Come down to The Billy Bishop Legion Branch 176 for some great (cheap) beer, sweet live tunes, belly laughs, and only slight debauchery!
No cover.
Live music.
Cheap, Good Beer on Tap.
Good times.

Details are on the Facebook event page!

You can donate to Kate MacEachern’s Long Walk Home here. You can donate to Robin & Stewart’s Marathon for Veterans. – See more at: http://politicsrespun.org/got-ptsd/#sthash.pKKIhmHL.dpuf

I don’t have PTSD!

I don’t have PTSD! by Stewart, who is accepting donations here!

Last week Robin touched on her personal experiences growing up in a military environment and how her endeavour to learn more about PTSD has shone a different light on those memories, reactions, and actions of those around her. It’s changed her. It’s changed how she views the world, politics, war, soldiers, veterans, and even how she views me.

We’ve been so busy running, working, writing, running, eating, running some more, and trying to stay awake in the afternoons, that I’ve not had time to ask her how differently she views me – I hope with more patience. You see, this endeavour has also changed me and in ways I’m finding hard to comprehend. It’s made me reflect on memories, past events, and how I reacted and dealt with them. How my friends reacted to things that happened to them and the different paths we all took when we left the Army. Some started businesses, some became security contractors, some joined back up, while others, like me, left Britain for greener lands. I’m thankful for choosing Canada. It truly is a beautiful country. Yet, those memories and past events followed me here, as did the dark moods that came with them. They’re not as bad as they used to be, although I often find myself apologizing for my army humour.

This isn’t easy to write. I’m literally squirming in my chair. I can’t help wondering why that is. Maybe it’s the thought of letting someone peak under the hood. I don’t have PTSD if you’re wondering. I know I don’t. I’m quite sure of it. I think. I consider myself quite lucky really. Normal I’d say. Nothing extraordinary happened to me. I mean compared to some people. I’ve got all my limbs. They’re even in good working order – it might be different after the marathon though. But, why does this bother me so much…

I know I found life hard when I finally, and honourably I’d like to add, left the British Army. I was lost in civilian street with my RSMs last words, “you’ll never make it sonny”, freshly ringing in my ears. I wish I could go back now and show him different, that I’d made it, but maybe he was projecting his own fears. I remember getting confused about having to pay for water and all the other bills. My new paycheque was hacked down by one bill after another. What was left was a pathetic amount of beer tokens. Everything was taken care of before, the roof over my head, the food in my belly, medical, dental, even water. The money at the end of the month was for me to do with whatever I liked. Things had changed though. Work was a challenge. People were continually squabbling and wasting their days away moaning about what seemed meaningless. All I could think of was what I’d seen, real pain, real suffering, death, the smell, the taste. I was engaged when I left. We struggled though, and soon separated, with her joining back up. I wanted to join back up. To be back with my mates. All of us in the same boat. I didn’t. I guess, in the end, it was those words my RSM spoke and my stubborn streak that kept me soldiering on. I ended up moving away and getting a better job, a house, and a fancy car (or two). But those dark moods would follow, as would the loneliness, and my continual attempts to drown them out.

I have friends who’ve struggled with PTSD. Some still do. It’s a horrible thing to see. It seems to fade with time for some – for the lucky ones. I remember one guy lost it on a firing range, stood up and started waiving his rifle around, until he got decked by the butt of, ahem, someone’s rifle. I was put in charge of him until further notice. To be his shadow. To kick his ass into shape. I didn’t know what I was doing and was far from qualified. But I tried. We’d just come back from Bosnia, which was a mess. The main fighting was over and we were there to rebuild that god awful place. We saw some sights. Most of us would drink things away, but not for him. Some days his eyes had a deadness to them. It was like some invisible darkness had entered him and was sucking the life out of him. I couldn’t get him out of bed some mornings, even when the RSM was coming around to inspect. I tried everything. Gentle encouragement. My boot up his ass. When he screwed up it would be me running around the parade square carrying, pulling, and pushing all sorts of crap. I loved physical fitness though, so it didn’t bother me too much, but I felt angry at those who put him in my care. It was clear they didn’t understand him and just saw him as a nuisance, a pain in the ass, a weak man, and certainly not fit for fighting wars. It wasn’t long before I was sent off to Bosnia again where I lost touch with him. I found out later he discharged himself, went off to London, and hit the bottle with a deadly passion. Until this day I don’t know what happened to him. Maybe he managed to get help and pull things together or maybe he’s on the street, like so many Vets, fighting for each day most of us take for granted. God I regret not being able to do more.

You see, I’ve realized that PTSD is not just about those suffering with it. It’s also about those who’ve escaped it. It’s about their attitudes, knowledge, understanding, patience, compassion, empathy, and heart strong desire to help those who clearly need it and deserve it with the right tools we have to available!!

I don’t have PTSD, but I have friends that do, and it’s for them, as well as for me, that I run and will keep on running. It’s the stigma that bothers me, the sigh when it’s brought up in conversation, the avoidance, and the cognitive dissonance. I’m continuing to meet some inspiring people on this journey who support me while I try to support others. Isn’t that what life’s about – a mutual championing of one another to climb that ladder, to better oneself. I want to say thank you to everyone championing me and my amazing partner Robin. You’re amazing and we’re very lucky to have you in our lives!

Fearing Kate MacEachern: The Latest Canadian Military Blunder

Kate MacEachern and helping others: not on the DND agenda, yet.

Canada’s continued neglect and abuse of our military personnel and veterans continues to enrage me. An epidemic of untreated PTSD has become a new normal. And until citizens compel the government to take responsibility for this neglect–and fix it–they will continue trying to get away with it.

Here’s the latest outrage:

OTTAWA — Less than a year after being lavishly and publicly praised by Defence Minister Peter MacKay for an arduous fundraising walk in aid of injured soldiers, a corporal says she has decided to leave the military after being ordered not to repeat the fundraiser again this summer.

Tank driver Cpl. Kate MacEachern, a member of the Armour School at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick, walked 562 kilometres in full uniform and pack from Gagetown to Antigonish last summer in what she called her ‘Long Way Home Walk.’

She raised $20,000 for the military charity Soldier On.

DND says no to soldier’s walk to raise money for injured veterans.

This government seems to fear truth-tellers like Kate MacEachern, even and perhaps especially when they work selflessly and constructively to improve problems and the lives of others.

From the article, it sounds like the military establishment, and the militarism-loving Conservative government in Canada, supported MacEachern’s walk last year. But perhaps after the walk, there may have been a feeling that the military allowing a soldier to shine a spotlight on their neglect of people in need was enough to oppose the event this year, which is despicable, especially considering MacEachern’s motivations. See below.

If all this bothers you as much as it bothers me, here are some things you can do:

  1. Support Kate MacEachern’s walk halfway across Canada at the Military Minds site.
  2. Like the Facebook page and follow the walk.
  3. Don Nicholson was just shuffled into the position of Minister of Defence. Email him this article at rob.nicholson@parl.gc.ca, letting him know that as a new minister/politician, he has an opportunity to put a fresh stamp of integrity on our nation by reversing the decision against Kate MacEachern’s walk AND begin the healing process of all the neglect and abuse of members and veterans from the Canadian Forces.
  4. Support Honour House, One in a Million fund and Hire Canadian Military initiatives.

Here’s some profound inspiration:

“One of the main values I learned from the army is that you never leave anyone behind,” she says. “But the more I opened my eyes the more I realized that a lot of people are being left behind. I signed a 25 year contract to serve my country, Queen and regiment. Until a month ago, I didn’t want to leave. It was honestly a devastating blow for me to have to make a decision between what I believe in and the uniform I wear because I thought they were the same thing. Finding out they aren’t the same thing is extremely hard so I had to walk away.”

MacEachern says she was moved to raise public awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental injuries after suffering a serious injury of her own at CFB Edmonton where she was thrown from a horse during a training exercise — a fact MacKay noted in his speech.

After a year’s physical recovery she was diagnosed with, and treated for, ‘non-combat PTSD’ — a condition she didn’t believe was overly serious until she suffered herself.

“I had pretty much bought into the stigma so many people have about PTSD,” she said. “You can shake it off, suck it up and soldier on. But it’s the complete opposite of the truth. And compared to people coming back from overseas, mine was mild.”

After recovering from her own injuries, MacEachern asked to be transferred to Gagetown to be closer to her family in Antigonish, Nova Scotia — a decision she now regrets.

“I started opening my eyes to what other people are going through and how much pain and struggle there is,” she said. “There comes a point where you have to make a conscious decision. Do you allow everything to keep happening and live with the consequences or do you try to make a difference?

MacEachern echoes the view of many critics who say that stigma against mental injury in the military is rampant and treatment facilities at some bases wholly inadequate.

“One thing I’ve learned over the past year,” she says, “is that having a fancy house or the latest model car and the biggest TV on the block means nothing if you can’t sleep at night knowing that you could have helped and didn’t.”

DND says no to soldier’s walk to raise money for injured veterans.