Help­ing the Helpers set for Satur­day

The Casket - - Health & Wellness - COREY LEBLANC coreyle­blanc@the­cas­ket.ca

Guy Leblanc will share the story of his post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der (PTSD) jour­ney this week­end in Antigo­nish.

The Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices of Canada cor­rec­tional of­fi­cer will be one of the guest speak­ers for the fifth an­nual Help­ing the Helpers – an aware­ness and ed­u­ca­tion day for PTSD – which will take place Satur­day, Oct. 27, at St. F.X.’S Schwartz School of Busi­ness Au­di­to­rium.

“I am, kind of, ex­cited be­cause ad­vo­cat­ing is my way to con­tinue help­ing and to con­tinue to – although I can­not be a cor­rec­tional of­fi­cer any­more – help my peers by spread­ing the mes­sage,” the Mem­ram­cook, N.B. na­tive said.

“I am also a lit­tle bit ner­vous just be­cause it is un­known ter­ri­tory for me to speak in front of peo­ple.”

It will be his first time as a speaker in such a fo­rum.

When Leblanc started his 13-year ca­reer with Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Canada, as a 22-year-old he was posted to an At­lantic max­i­mum se­cu­rity prison, which housed ap­prox­i­mately 240 to 260 in­mates.

“It is hard to ex­actly pin­point when it started,” he said of the gen­e­sis of his men­tal health in­jury.

Leblanc noted there was an in­ci­dent in July of 2008.

“But, again, it was a cu­mu­la­tive thing, over the years, so it is hard to pin­point when it started to have a neg­a­tive ef­fect on my health,” he added.

There was the loss of sleep, if any at all, along with night­mares and anx­i­ety.

“It ac­cu­mu­lated and then there was se­vere ir­ri­tabil­ity and iso­la­tion,” Leblanc said, adding he lost friends and start­ing stay­ing home more of­ten.

In 2016, when he re­ally started to come to terms with need­ing help, a friend helped him find a psy­chol­o­gist, with a PTSD di­ag­no­sis com­ing “pretty quickly.”

Most re­cently, as part of his treat­ment, he spent July to Septem­ber at a Toronto fa­cil­ity.

“Since I re­turned, I would say I have an OK qual­ity of life, right now, so it is go­ing well,” Leblanc said.

As for the stigma as­so­ci­ated with men­tal health, Leblanc thinks “it has im­proved,” but there re­mains more to do, es­pe­cially when it comes to cor­rec­tions of­fi­cers.

“We are, kind of, the for­got­ten first re­spon­ders, be­cause we are out of the pub­lic eye, so it is an out of sight, out of mind kind of thing,” he said.

Leblanc added most re­main hes­i­tant to talk be­cause “we are sup­posed to be so strong and we are never sup­posed to show weak­ness in front of in­mates.”

“When you start talk­ing to your peers and say­ing things aren’t right, then that’s when you feel the stigma of it,” he said.

“There are still a lot of cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers who do not want to speak up – for that rea­son. They need to step up but the mes­sage also needs to be made pub­lic.”

As for his Help­ing the Helpers mes­sage, Leblanc said, “It is OK not to be OK, some­times, and that there is help out there.”

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