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Okanagan Mountie walking 60 hours for first responder PTSD awareness

WATCH: An Okanagan RCMP officer says it was his personal experience working in law enforcement that motivated him to walk for PTSD awareness.

An Okanagan RCMP officer plans to stay awake for two and half days as he completes a multi-day, 239 km walk to create more awareness of the impact PTSD can have on first responders.

Sgt. Rob Farrer said he was motivated to set out on the walk by his personal experiences serving in law enforcement.

READ MORE: Ontario’s chief coroner to launch review police suicides in 2018

“I’ve been an RCMP member for 19 years, so I know a lot of people who have been effected by PTSD,” Farrer said.

“I’ve known several who’ve unfortunately taken their lives or had to retire early because they’ve been afflicted by it.

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“You see a lot of things, and you are exposed to a lot of horrible things repeatedly and they affect people differently.”

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Indeed Farrer’s walk comes after an Ottawa police officer died in an apparent suicide in late September.

The North Okanagan sergeant is encouraging police officers and other first responders to seek help when they need it.

“Absolutely, there is a culture of toughness which is part of what I want to get people talking about,” Farrer said.

Calgary-area military veteran joins motorbike ride to support PTSD sufferers
Calgary-area military veteran joins motorbike ride to support PTSD sufferers

Farrer said he wants other first responders to realize “it is far better and tougher to go sometimes and seek that help. You are not doing yourself any favours… by holding things in.”

He points out that despite their uniforms, police officers are still human beings who can be impacted by what they experience at work.

“We can be traumatized just like anybody else, when you see it repeatedly,” Farrer said.

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“Although there is training, sometimes we feel like we should hold onto that and not be effected. The reality is that we are people, just like anybody else, and that stuff affects people.”

Farrer began his walk on Sunday morning and doesn’t intend to stop until he finishes the 239 km, which he expects to do by Tuesday evening.

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He picked the distance to knowledge the 239 members of the RCMP organization who have died in the line of duty over the years.

That number doesn’t include RCMP members who died by suicide, which Farrer says isn’t tracked.

Money raised from the walk is being donated to a Canadian charity called Courageous Companions. The organization says it “provides quality trained, certified service dogs to military veterans and first responders.”

–With files from the Canadian Press

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the Interior Crisis Line Network, available 24/7, at 1-888-3523-CARE (2273). For more information on suicide and to find help nearest you, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

Please call 911 for immediate help.