WINNIPEG – Hundreds of RCMP officers, friends, and family attended Ken Barker’s funeral Friday, to remember the retired corporal who took his own life last weekend.
Staff Sgt. Major Wayne Foster was among the many Mounties paying their respects. Foster works with the emergency response team, the same team Barker worked on as a dog handler.
“Great guy, very compassionate, sensitive, take the shirt off his back to help anyone out,” said Foster, of his former colleague.
As a first responder, Barker was often exposed to gruesome scenes, including being one of the first to arrive when Tim McLean was murdered and beheaded on a Greyhound bus nearly six years ago.
“It has to haunt people, it has to, how do you as a human being see that and not be dramatically affected for the rest of your life,” said Carol de Delley over the phone, mother of Tim McLean.
Barker had been battling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Foster told Global News he can empathize with how hard it can be to cope.
“I’ve been to many stressful calls and have seen things no one should see and I know where he’s coming from,” explained Foster. “I know the RCMP did provide some support for him but obviously with him taking his life you’re left to wonder was it enough,” said Foster.
At the same time as Barker’s funeral, three retired soldiers, all diagnosed with PTSD, made their way through Winnipeg on a walk across the country to bring awareness to the disorder.
“A lot of people are afraid and feel like they’re not going to get the support because of the stigma’s attached and that’s what we’re trying to break,” said Steve Hartwig, one of the retired soldiers walking across the country.
According to a study, 24 per cent of first responders suffer from PTSD, a rate three times higher than the general population.
“This week we have the reports of 13 front line workers committing suicide in 10 weeks, it’s almost an epidemic, it’s of epidemic proportions,” said Jason McKenzie, another solider with PTSD.
The cross country walk for PTSD started in Vancouver and will take eight more weeks to complete, ending in Newfoundland.