Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cross-Canada tour promoting PTSD

ST. JOHN’S, N.L.—Cpl. Jamie MacWhirter has been through the nightmares and angry outbursts of post-traumatic stress disorder, and he has a message for those struggling alone.
“If you believe you have a problem, if your wife or spouse has said anything to you, it doesn’t hurt to go and talk to somebody,” he stresses.

MacWhirter chronicled his 2006 deployment in Kandahar and subsequent troubles with PTSD in his memoir, “A Soldier’s Tale: A Newfoundland Soldier in Afghanistan.”
He’s now working on another book about his long journey back to better mental health.
On May 5, MacWhirter will speak in St. John’s to help launch a cross-Canada tour aimed at raising awareness about how soldiers, emergency workers, police, correctional officers, and others are affected by PTSD.
The “Heroes Are Human” tour, organized by the Tema Conter Memorial Trust in Toronto, will include stops in 48 cities and towns.
Two-hour community meetings will be free of charge for anyone wanting to learn more about how to cope with a still highly-stigmatized condition.
MacWhirter said it’s been especially hard to learn of recent suicides involving soldiers and veterans of the Afghanistan mission.
“People are afraid to come forward and admit that they need help,” he said in an interview.
“Most soldiers, they’re taught to hide the pain,” he noted. “They’re taught to soldier on and continue work.
“It’s hard to change your thought pattern and say, ‘I need help.’”
MacWhirter, 38, said he’s heard stories of soldiers whose military careers have stalled after admitting to such problems.
But his own experience has been one of support and, over time, healing.
He first sought help through the military almost eight years ago when his symptoms began to escalate.
“I tried to deal with it myself. But my wife, God love her, she pretty much told me: ‘You need help,’” he recalled.
MacWhirter said finding a counsellor in St. John’s who could help him put in perspective and let go of the most rattling memories of his time overseas has made the difference.
He expects to finish his mental health treatment in June.
MacWhirter said he’ll likely deal with PTSD symptoms for the rest of his life, but that he now understands what triggers to avoid and how to calm himself.
“I believe now I’m ready to carry on with my life and carry on my career,” he remarked.

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