Helping the Helpers set for Saturday
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.”