I am not a doctor nor am I a psychologist. I am, however, a person that suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
It bewilders me and disheartens me to find that in Whitehorse, a place where I grew up, a place I learned to call home, the place I returned to after I left the military,
it is extremely hard for a person who suffers from the disorder to get the proper help to live and deal with having this disorder.
In my case, it’s been difficult even to be believed that I suffered from it.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is called “the invisible wound.” Unlike many who return from war or the military with visible injuries which are looked after very well, invisible wounds are usually swept aside and ignored.
The majority of veterans, RCMP, paramedics and firefighters who suffer from this disorder hide it very well and can do so for many years. We do not talk about it. The disorder creates a chemical change in the brain, which is really a normal response to an abnormal situation or event.
Some people suffer with this disorder for years until something happens to retrigger their trauma. Such retriggering can lead to self-destruction; we cause physical harm to ourselves with coping behaviours that include drugs, alcohol, high-risk activities, becoming workaholics. We see no other way out of our situations and we cannot get the proper help we require.
Sometimes, we even take our own lives, because of the lack of understanding of what having this disorder does to us as we try to live through it.
It totally bewilders me that, as Whitehorse is in such a rush to become a big city like the other big cities in Canada, the medical profession and the government here do not possess the skills or the knowledge to accept the disorder as a disability. Nor do they know how to treat it. As it stands now, there is no place in Whitehorse to get proper treatment or help for a person who suffers from it.
The reason for this letter is that I had to seek out my own help so that I could learn how to deal not only with the everyday stresses of life, but also living with the disorder. After many years of trying to get help, I finally found it, with no help from the medical community.
The help I found came from a program that was sponsored by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 254. This was called the Veterans Transition Program and, because I’m a veteran as well as a member of the Legion, I was informed of this program.
Most people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder live in their own hell every day of their lives. There has to be a way to get back to living a somewhat normal life – if there is such a thing.
But the unfortunate thing is that this program came from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Whitehorse for the first time in October; it had never been tried outside of the Lower Mainland before.
It also costs a lot of money to run this program. Once I was in, the program lasted for three straight full days and it taught me that I’m not alone suffering with this disorder.
It also taught me exactly what it is that I have and how to try to deal with it on a day-to-day basis. This program has been running in the Lower Mainland for more than 10 years and has helped more than 100 people suffering from the disorder.
This program has also created a small support group here in Whitehorse, so that if I feel I cannot cope with what is going on in my life, or I start to regress or lose control over my disorder, I can reach out and talk to someone about what is going on for me. They know what it is like and they can help me through it.
The only other alternative to this is to wait until I’m almost at the breaking point (or over the breaking point) and go to the hospital, where they will just give me more drugs to control the situation.
I would like to see this Veteran Transition Program be carried forward into the future in Whitehorse so that it can be expanded to not only help Veterans but also the RCMP, firefighters and paramedics, and anyone who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, as well.
As I sit and ponder how I should finish this letter, I would like to thank the Royal Canadian Legion for carrying us forward into the future and sponsoring this program in Whitehorse.
I would also like to invite any person who suffers from the disorder to respond to this letter, anonymously, if they wish, so that we can inform the Yukon government as well as the medical profession on how to better deal with people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
They need to learn how to treat this as a real and serious disability. Because, living with this disorder is like living in hell and it should not be ignored or swept under the rug the way many other programs have been in the past.
(Name withheld) Retired corporal, First Royal Canadian Horse Artillery