TORONTO – A team of trekkers has concluded the largest-ever expedition of its kind, travelling 125 kilometres to raise money for mental health support in the Canadian military.
The True Patriot Love Expedition team – comprised of 12 injured soldiers and corporate leaders – raised $1.5 million to help fund programs that support mental health services for injured soldiers.
The team left Ottawa for Resolute Bay, Nunavut, on April 19. It completed the trek at the North Pole on Tuesday evening.
The goal of the trek was also to raise awareness for the impact of operational stress injuries (OSI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on Canada’s soldiers and veterans.
PTSD in the Canadian Armed Forces
Global News recently obtained data from Veterans Affairs, which showed that psychiatric conditions are the second-most common of all causes of disability claims among those who served in Afghanistan.
According to a senior psychiatrist with the Canadian Forces, the most common mental health ailments in the military are depression, PTSD and substance abuse.
“We often hear about the mental and physical injuries that soldiers come home with, but meeting these soldiers and sharing this expedition with them made it all real and personal,” said Caroline Ouellette, Captain of the National Women’s Hockey Team and one of the trekkers.
True Patriot Love works to honour Canada’s veterans and their families by working to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness, stepping in to offer support when the government doesn’t fund programs, and raising funds for rehabilitation and mental health well-being.
“The symptoms of PTSD can take up to eight years to surface, and we believe it is our duty as Canadians to be there when they do surface so that we can support the men and women who fought for us and for our country,” said Tim Hodgson, Co-Chair of the expedition.
Heroes tour to raise awareness for PTSD
Meanwhile, May 5 will mark the launch of the cross-Canada “Heroes Are Human” tour, which aims to raise awareness about the impact PTSD has on soldiers, emergency workers and police officers.
Cpl. Jamie MacWhirter, who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 and later diagnosed with PTSD, will help kick off the tour in St. John’s.
The tour will stop in 48 cities and towns. Free community meetings will be held for anyone wanting to learn more about how to cope with a highly stigmatized condition, like PTSD.
“People are afraid to come forward and admit that they need help,” said MacWhirter. “Most soldiers, they’re taught to hide the pain. They’re taught to soldier on and continue work.”
But through his mental health treatment and support system, he believes he is ready to carry on with the rest of his life and career, even if the symptoms of this PTSD never go away.Follow @heatherloney
© Shaw Media, 2014