Vermilion Citizens on Patrol hosted a Mental Health and PTSD Presentation at the School of Hope on October 18.
Speaker, Bernie VanTighem shared life experiences of his past trauma, the stigma around mental health, and his ongoing recovery and living with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
According to VanTighem, who has ample work experience in fire, ambulance, and search and rescue, his journey began 30 years ago when he was called to a severely disturbing truck and train accident. At the time, the accident had not fazed him, but ten years later he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Another eight years had passed before a couple of fellow firefighters had died by suicide, and VanTighem sought appropriate treatment for the PTSD that he had been suffering all along.
According to VanTighem, researchers estimate that as many as 45 per cent of Canadians will experience a mental illness at some point in their life. He also noted that the stigma associated with mental health concerns often cause people not to report them, not seek help, not get better, and sometimes even lead to suicide.
“The stigma is towards all mental health issues, but the reality is that trauma can affect everyone. I believe that programs which address resilience and normalizing physiological reactions will do more for people than any training I have taken in my 30 years in Fire, Ambulance and Search and Rescue. We need to accept normal responses to abnormal events and let people feel,” said VanTighem.
VanTighem went on to explain mental illness affects us all and that if practicing the appropriate treatment, people can grow from trauma. He suggested that people acknowledge illnesses and offer to listen to their peers, keeping in mind that it is okay for everyone to react differently. He also suggested that people seek positive coping methods, and if necessary, follow up with professional help.
“Do not isolate people. No one should walk alone,” said VanTieghem.
He also noted that mental illness is not weakness, and referenced a popular sport psychology phrase, “The difference between good athletes and great athletes is the Psychologist in the dressing room.”
“This makes mental health cool again,” said VanTighem who noted that support of your peers does not need to be complicated and it is not therapy, and that sometimes the simplest actions are the best.