The Veteran Hunters offer new kind of PTSD support: ‘It’s family’

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The Veteran Hunters offer new kind of PTSD support
WATCH: It is an unconventional therapy program, but one proving successful for hundreds of veterans and first responders from across the country. The Veteran Hunters is a Calgary-based program helping people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder build a community of support. Sarah Offin explains. – Dec 1, 2022

“The whole range of emotions kick in,” Chris Reader says. “You’re excited at first, then you’re sad. Maybe not sad, but your emotions are all over the place.”

Reader is one of almost 400 veterans and first responders who have participated in a new kind of therapy in Canada.

“We join when we’re, you know 17, 18, 19 (years old)” says Todd Hisey, who served as an infantry officer in the Canadian military for a total of 22 years. He has gone overseas with the military three times.

“In some ways it defined who I was. And now that I wasn’t in the military any more, it’s kind of like, ‘Who am I now?'”

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Reader’s experience in returning to civilian life has been similar.

“Everything from anxiety, crippling depression, survivor’s guilt,” he explains. “I have all these symptoms that are following me around now that I now have to deal with.

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That’s part of what led Hisey to hunting. Several years after he was removed from service, he created The Veteran Hunters, turning veterans and first responders into “heroes who hunt.”

READ MORE: Many military veterans struggle in silence

“I felt a form of satisfaction because I could still soldier, but now I could use those skills to put food on my family’s table,” Hisey says.

The non-profit began in 2019. Since then it has benefited from countless donors, landowners and even a TV show.

“We tell everybody, ‘I can’t guarantee you a harvest, but I can guarantee you that you’re going to have a memorable experience with wildlife,'” Hisey says.

And it’s the friendships built around those experiences that organizers say create value, and — hopefully — healing, for years to come.

“It’s not a community,” Reader says. “It’s family.”

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