Published Friday, June 22, 2018 9:29PM ADT
Last Updated Friday, June 22, 2018 9:30PM ADT
It’s estimated one in 20 Canadians works in public safety – as a police officer, fire fighter, a member of the military or as a first responder — and many experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of their work.
Friday, a non-profit group called the Society of Atlantic Heroes unveiled plans for a one-of-a-kind centre in Atlantic Canada to assist first responders and veterans suffering from PTSD.
It will be a place where veterans and first responders struggling with post-traumatic stress – can receive treatment.
“What we want to do is bring this together so that we’re delivering a holistic package that can quickly address the issue before it becomes more serious,” said Ken Hoffer of the Society of Atlantic Heroes.
Billed as a “sanctuary” for those with PTSD and their families; somewhere where they could live and receive comprehensive care in one place.
The president of the society says it would provide the kind of help desperately needed by veterans with PTSD — people like Lionel Desmond, who took his own life and killed his wife, daughter, and mother in rural Nova Scotia last year.
Hoffer says there have been other deaths that didn’t make headlines.
“In every one of those cases was an individual sitting at home in isolation that was trying to reach out, but just couldn’t get the services delivered fast enough,” Hoffer said.
According to an organization that tracks first responder suicides – there have been 10 reported this year.
The number of Canadians who suffer PTSD in public-safety occupations is significant.
It affects more than a quarter of those in corrections or emergency medical services, 17 per cent of firefighters, eight per cent of those in the military, and more than seven per cent in policing.
“We have the highest per capita veterans rate in the country,” said Sgt. (Ret’d) Rollie Lawless, who has PTSD from his service with the UN in the former Yugoslavia.
The 20-year veteran of the military has dedicated the past 11 years to helping other veterans.
He says having one place where veterans could go for help — and bring their families with them — would make a big difference.
“We have to send our heroes away for treatment, out of the province, away from the family unit, or support units, doesn’t matter what support unit it is,” Lawless said. “We all have some people that support us and when you take that away, it’s hard to get well.”
After today’s photo ops comes the need for funding. The society estimates it will need $20 million to make the project a reality.
The next step for the society is to find land, 35 acres of it, somewhere in Halifax, but next to green space, and with a view of the water.
The society says it has a few places in mind already – and is working out details.
It’s a goal it would like to see happen soon – for Maritimers with PTSD who need help now.
Organizers behind this project hope to have part of the centre, which would include residences for veterans, first responders, and their families, ready in about five years, with the whole project complete, in 10.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Heidi Petracek.
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