Emergency crews were out on a rainy Monday morning in Cranbrook to help send off a cross-Canada walk to raise awareness for first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The walk, called Sea to Sea for PTSD, will take Alberta Highway Patrol sheriff Chad Kennedy from the starting point in Cranbrook to St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Kennedy said he thinks the walk will take about eight months, with stops in various communities throughout the trip to talk to residents and emergency responders.
“I’ve been doing a lot of therapy because of my post-traumatic stress. There are going to be a lot of tears. It’s going to be an emotional journey,” said Kennedy. “Physically I feel good and as we go, we’ll only get more fit. It’s going to be about 200 kilometres a week.”
The walk was prefaced by a fundraiser barbecue on Saturday, where volunteers from Mr. Mike’s served lunch by donation. Some of Cranbrook’s first responders made it out to show their support.
Kennedy, a 13-year veteran of highway patrol, said he was diagnosed with PTSD in 2018, and described a scene he witnessed a few years after his diagnosis.
“On July 18 of 2020, I attended a mass casualty event in Jasper National Park which sent my PTSD into overdrive. I took some time to figure out what was going on with me with my post-traumatic stress,” explained Kennedy. “Underneath our uniforms, we’re all human beings. As human beings, we’re not designed to see the horrible stuff we see on a regular basis and quite often we’re too afraid to ask for help.”
“That should not be the case. We as helpers should know that we should be allowed to ask for help,” said Kennedy. “If we’re not taking care of ourselves, how are we expected to take care of others?”
Kennedy said many first responders tend to keep their mental health struggles private.
“The last thing we ever want is to be judged by a coworker, management, the public or family. So we just don’t talk about the stuff that’s going on in our heads,” said Kennedy.