Former Canadian Soldiers Raise PTSD Awareness
THUNDER BAY – LIVING – Three former Canadian soldiers and veterans of the Croatian peacekeeping mission are currently walking across Canada to bring awareness to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The march consists of 32km forest marched (military hiked) distances each day augmented with periodic short drives.
Steve Hartwig is marching the full 32km each day assisted by Jason McKenzie and Scott McFarlane who split time between marching and driving the support vehicle. Each of the three veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD and have made their diagnosis public in an attempt to raise awareness for PTSD and to open a dialogue throughout Canada in an effort to curb the current suicide rates of military, RCMP, fire and ambulance personnel.
The three veterans served together on the United Nations Protection Force in the Former Yugoslavia from 1992 to 1993. Steve and Jason met during basic training and spent most of their military career together. Scott was posted to the same platoon as Steve during the United Nations tour. All three men experienced traumatic incidents during the tour as well as the daily stresses that were part of working within an active combat theatre. Steve and Scott faced a particularly life changing event when Steve saved Scott’s life which resulted in Scott being medivaced from country. The two men had not seen each other since the incident until coming together to march across Canada. All three men are fathers and have put their personal lives on hold to take on this monumental journey. The march began on June 23, 2014 in Victoria, BC and will conclude in late September in St Johns Newfoundland.
PTSD related suicides in military and frontline workers are three times higher than the general population. With the recent high profile suicides in the military, RCMP and first responders there is an urgency for awareness and change to stigmas and treatment to curb this current trend. A total of 158 Canadian soldiers died in the 12 year Afghanistan War, and in the past three years 50 Canadian soldiers who were veterans of the Afghanistan war have committed suicide recognized by the Department of Nation Defence to be PTSD related. If this tread were to continue more soldiers will die by their own hand over a 12 year period than died during combat in Afghanistan. The RCMP recently made public 31 suicides in the force related to PTSD since 2006.
The march hopes to curb these current trends by:
1. increasing public awareness and education to remove stigmas in Canadian society and work forces about PTSD
2. Shine a spotlight on the current care for individuals and their families
3. opening a dialogue between individuals, organizations and government that embraces long term care.
This care should include traditional and alternative methods to supplement the current clinical model.
You can follow Steve, Jason and Scott’s progress at www.IntoNoMansLand.com, Facebook page “Into No Man’s Land” or on Twitter @in2nomansland