A first responder from Alberta is making a gruelling trek across Canada on foot, with the goal of raising awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to encourage his comrades to share their struggles.
Chad Kennedy, who has been joined by fellow first responders along the way, hopes to normalize conversations about occupational stress injuries and traumatic brain injuries.
Kenney is a former soldier and RCMP auxiliary member. He started on his cross-country trek titled “Sea to Sea for PTSD” in 2022, after he himself had to take time off from his role as an Alberta sheriff highway patrol officer to confront his own demons.
“I was actually too afraid to go to work. I got as far as my patrol vehicle and realized it was time to ask for some serious help,” he said.
Kennedy said there continues to be stigma surrounding mental health issues within first responder professions.
“We don’t feel safe speaking freely or asking for help when we need it,” he said.
But with the help of a supportive superior, he said he found the courage to seek help and is now trying to help others with the same support and encouragement.
Throughout his journey, Kennedy has been joined by countless first responders.
“It reminds me that I am not alone,” said Kennedy.
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One of these companions is Rachel Dent, a volunteer firefighter from Nova Scotia who is still coping with the aftermath of devastating wildfires earlier this spring.
“I was one of the first trucks in on the Tantallon wildfires, so being first on the scene for something catastrophic and traumatizing” stays with you, she said.
Dent has found peace working with her horses and in her equine program, called FLAR Equine Experience, to assist others dealing with workplace stress. She said the programs help people suffering from PTSD with self-confidence, problem-solving skills and trust-building.
As a certified equine connection practitioner, Dent recently conducted a session with Kennedy at her farm in Hubley, N.S.
Kennedy’s path will eventually lead him to his final destination in Newfoundland, where he hopes to save and motivate as many people as possible.
“If we can save just one person and motivate just one person,” it will be worth the trip, he said.