HALIFAX – An Eastern Passage family is coming forward to shine a light on the impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on the family unit.
Veteran Shane Jones, 39, served in the military for more than 10 years. He developed PTSD after helping with the clean-up of Swiss Air in 1998. He then did a tour of Afghanistan in 2005, where he suffered a traumatic brain injury that only compounded his PTSD.
Wife Veronica said she knew her husband was different when he came back from Afghanistan. Their daughter Ruth, now nine years old, was born a month after his return. The couple also have a son named Grayson, who is now four years old.
“He was so disassociated and traumatized from his experience that he really couldn’t cope with everyday things,” she said.
“For years, he was uninvolved in the rearing of the children and our everyday life. We did a lot of stuff by ourselves – family functions and going out.”
Shane adds the situation was only worsened due to his wait time for treatment. He was released from the military in 2008 but only received a case manager and counseling in 2013.
“You isolate yourself. You’re very angry. It’s like an emotional rollercoaster. It could switch any minute,” Shane said.
The effects of PTSD slowly began to trickle down to Shane’s relationship with his children, though he initially did not realize it.
“I was going through my daily routine and [realized] wow stuff is making me really angry. I never really put two and two together right away,” he said.
Strain on the children
As the children grew up, they knew their father was different.
“Ruth, I think, began to notice around five or six years old. Just like any child, [she wanted] more. ‘I want more time with dad. I want dad to come out to more things. Why are we going to our family Christmas outing without my dad?'” Veronica said.
“It’s hard on the family. It does affect the whole unit.”
Daughter Ruth said she noticed her dad did not often go out, and while she understands now why that is the case, she wishes it weren’t so.
“I do think we have a really strong relationship but we really don’t hang out that much,” she said.
She and her brother Grayson said they see the effects of PTSD in their home.
“It affects the time we spend together. It affects the times we have family meetings and stuff,” she said.
“Me and dad have some fun and play, and sometimes he gets mad at me,” said Grayson.
Family tries to move forward
Since Shane started counseling, he’s been able to temper his PTSD and the effect of that on his children is obvious.
“Things are getting better. He is more involved with the children. He’s doing all the steps he needs to do and he’s aware a change needs to happen, that this is no way to live your life,” Veronica said.
“I didn’t really realize how this whole thing affected everybody around me on such a grand scale probably until the last six months to a year. You start to take the steps to get better then you can get a better view,” Shane said.
The parents said they talk to their children a lot about Shane’s PTSD to make sure they understand what their father is going through.
“[Ruth] doesn’t need to know everything that happened and why he has PTSD. I just try to sit and explain to her that’s not the normal reaction. We make sure after an incident happens that we do sit down and talk with them so they understand this isn’t how dad really felt about this situation. He’s overwhelmed,” Veronica said.
The parents said life at home has gotten better, and Shane said that is rewarding for him as a father.
“I’ve gotten past that scary area so to speak. Once I got past that, I could start to see myself getting better and helping my kids and my wife,” he said.
Organization focusing on children of first responders
The Jones family is encouraged to hear about a new organization specifically for the children of first responders, such as firefighters, paramedics and military personnel, who suffer from PTSD.
Natasha’s Wood Foundation is holding an event in Halifax this Saturday, which the family plans to attend. The program, which runs from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Military Family Resource Centre, is an art competition.
Artwork will be selected for inclusion in a picture book, with 100 per cent of sales going towards connecting families to arts, sports and dance programs for children.
“[First responders] are there to support us during times of need, and if they’re injured during their service to us, we as a community need to support them and their children,” said founder Fay Maddison.
Veronica said she is thrilled there is an organization specifically for the children.
“They do get caught up in this mess,” she said.
“I think it’s about time they start looking into not just the service member because it affects everybody. I didn’t just come home with PTSD and all my other injuries. My family suffered around it too,” said Shane.