Fifth an­nual PTSD ed­u­ca­tion, aware­ness day set for Oct. 27 in Antigo­nish

The Casket - - Health&wellness - COREY LEBLANC coreyle­blanc@the­cas­

Ask for help.

That’s one of the key mes­sages John Garth and Michelle Mac­don­ald hope par­tic­i­pants re­ceive dur­ing the fifth an­nual Help­ing the Helpers, a post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der (PTSD) aware­ness and ed­u­ca­tion day.

The gath­er­ing for front­line pro­fes­sion­als and their fam­i­lies will take place Satur­day, Oct. 27 at St. F.X.’S Schwartz School of Busi­ness Au­di­to­rium.

“It is not a weak­ness,” Michelle said. The Antigo­nish cou­ple knows, first­hand, how cru­cial it is to take that step, one that has been a key for their fam­ily on, as Michelle de­scribed, its “hor­rific jour­ney” with PTSD.

“It is a sign of strength,” John Garth, a para­medic with PTSD, said.

He added more peo­ple are “open­ing up” and seek­ing that much-needed as­sis­tance.

‘Beyond shat­tered’

Tanya Snow saw that John Garth, her friend, men­tor and for­mer ACP part­ner, was suf­fer­ing; she knew he needed help.

Her ef­fort to do that for him and other front­line re­spon­ders be­came Help­ing the Helpers.

“We use an open form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion that fo­cuses on cre­at­ing aware­ness of the signs and symp­toms of PTSD,” she ex­plained in The Day My Men­tor Fell, a piece she wrote for the publi­ca­tion Cana­dian Paramedicine.

“We pro­mote get­ting help early and help those iden­tify re­sources close to them. The ear­lier we start treat­ment, the more pro­duc­tive we can be in our com­mu­ni­ties, at work, and most im­por­tantly, to our fam­i­lies.”

John Garth said each Help­ing the Helpers fea­tures a “tremen­dous” line-up of speak­ers, while Michelle de­scribed the mix­ture of pro­fes­sion­als as “phe­nom­e­nal.”

The cou­ple will also share their sto­ries.

“It im­pacts the whole fam­ily. We lived it,” Michelle said, not­ing that is an ef­fect “we can­not for­get.”

While touch­ing on the mes­sage she will de­liver later this month, she used the phrase ‘beyond shat­tered’ to de­scribe the Mac­don­ald fam­ily jour­ney.

She ex­plained those words — par­tic­u­larly ‘beyond’ — have a two-fold mean­ing, re­flect­ing the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect of PTSD on their fam­ily.

Call­ing the psy­cho­log­i­cal in­jury as a “liv­ing mon­ster,” she added, PTSD had “seeped its way into our home.”

“It dev­as­tated every as­pect of our lives,” Michelle said.

When PTSD is “on the doorstep,” she re­it­er­ated the im­por­tance of ask­ing for help.

“Don’t wait for a cri­sis,” Michelle said.

Warm, wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment Help­ing the Helpers is a tremen­dous re­source in gain­ing that ed­u­ca­tion in what John Garth called a “warm and wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment.”

“Peo­ple will not be stig­ma­tized — they will feel safe,” he said.

One of the myr­iad ben­e­fits Help­ing the Helpers pro­vides is a set­ting that re­minds those with PTSD that they are not alone.

“We want ev­ery­one to feel as com­fort­able as pos­si­ble and that they are among friends,” John Garth added.

Af­ter the speak­ers, the day­long fo­rum will wrap up with a panel dis­cus­sion, in­clud­ing a ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion – and clos­ing re­marks.

“It is com­ing to­gether re­ally well,” John Garth said of prepa­ra­tions.

When asked about its evo­lu­tion, he noted, Help­ing the Helpers con­tin­ues to touch front­line pro­fes­sion­als, while more and more fam­ily mem­bers and peo­ple from the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion are ben­e­fit­ting.

“It has been very ther­a­peu­tic, as part of my re­cov­ery,” John Garth said, when asked about shar­ing his story at th­ese and other gath­er­ings.

He added those speeches serve as a “cop­ing mech­a­nism.”

“And, of course, I hope they reach as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble,” John Garth noted.

More to do

Al­though there has been great progress, through ini­tia­tives such as Help­ing the Helpers, the stigma re­mains, when it comes to PTSD.

“It’s get­ting bet­ter, but there is a lot of work to do,” John Garth said.

He noted peer pres­sure, along with a lack of un­der­stand­ing from many em­ploy­ers, re­main an is­sue.

“There are a lot of bar­ri­ers,” John Garth said, when it comes to ac­cess­ing ser­vices.

Michelle noted if some­one has a phys­i­cal in­jury, help is there right away, but a six-month wait re­mains when it is a men­tal one.

She also stressed the need for im­prove­ments in health and safety leg­is­la­tion.

“It is not what they signed up for,” a frus­trated Michelle said.

She added those who “self­lessly give their lives for us” need as­sis­tance.

“We all have a re­spon­si­bil­ity,” Michelle said.

Room for more

Reg­is­tra­tion for Help­ing the Helpers will con­tinue un­til Oct. 19.

Like other years, or­ga­niz­ers ex­pect a full house of more than 300 par­tic­i­pants, but there re­mains room for more.

The fee is $20 or $30, which in­cludes lunch pro­vided at St. F.X.’S Mor­ri­son Hall.

Dur­ing Help­ing the Helpers, there will be a silent auc­tion in sup­port of the ini­tia­tive.

For more in­for­ma­tion or to reg­is­ter, con­tact help­ingth­e­helper­ or call 902-318-5959.


Ad­vanced care para­medic John Garth Mac­don­ald of Antigo­nish will, once again, be one of the speak­ers for Help­ing the Helpers — the an­nual post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der aware­ness and ed­u­ca­tion day — which will take place Oct. 27 at St. F.X.’S Schwartz Au­di­to­rium.

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