I’m not really known for sensitive, insightful commentary on serious topics; But for a few minutes let’s set aside the recurring themes of beer, baseball and Salma Hayek’s cleavage.
I want to talk about Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), truthfully I don’t want to, but feel the need to discuss it. I just finished reading about the ex-RCMP officer who took his own life, after suffering through years of PTSD. It made me very sad and anxious, because, among other traumas he witnessed, Ken Barker was linked to the horrific tragedy of Tim McLean’s death and dismemberment, at the hands of Vince Li. If you’re not familiar with this event you might consider yourself lucky, because it is something that is truly heinous. It certainly was a sad, recurring memory for RCMP officer Barker. If you want to know more about this tragic event, here’s recent coverage by CTV News.
I am of the belief that the controversial court ruling that Vince Li wasn’t criminally responsible for his actions, due to his mental health problems, exacerbated the effects that being a witness to the scene had on Ken Barker. Having only experienced Tim McLean’s slaughter via media accounts, I can barely begin to fathom the impact it must’ve had on a witness, especially one whose job was to protect public safety.
We all have our opinions on how Vince Li should (or shouldn’t) have been handled by Canada’s justice system, but that’s not the point here. Mental Health is the point.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, as per the Canadian Mental Health Association, is related to exposure to severe trauma. The lasting effects of experiencing trauma vary, but PTSD is a very real danger, especially for emergency responders, and active military personal, who are likely to experience repeated exposure to trauma.
Great strides have been made in recent years in breaking down the stigmas of mental illness in Canada, through increased awareness, as seen in Bell’s “Let’s Talk” initiative with Olympian Clara Hughes. Talking about our problems does help, I think we can agree on that.
For emergency responders like police and firefighters, stereotypical macho, tough guy ideals may still make that approach more difficult, because the “rub some dirt on it, and get back in the game” way of thinking still exists with some. And yes, we want to know that our police, firefighters, and soldiers are tough, and can handle the burden of danger, but let’s not forget they have emotions and feel mental pain and anguish too.
I’m not sure what I can do to help with PTSD or other mental illness, but I guess empathy and acceptance are a good start. Understanding and support in a community can’t hurt, maybe it can encourage those who need it, to get help?
Honestly, I do feel better sharing my thoughts here.