Supporting Emergency Service Workers
Each year, the organization United by Trauma (UbyT) holds and event to show their appreciation to all emergency response workers and military members for the emotional sacrifices made every day. This year’s United by Trauma Ball Hockey Codiac Cup took place at the Barrie Molson Centre, in Barrie Ontario (Canada). As well as ball hockey, the event included Helicopter Rides, a Dog Agility Course and BBQ and Bjeer Gardens. During this all-day event, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the new ‘United by Trauma “Ernie’s Journey” Service Pups.’ Funds generated by this event go towards training and caring for Service Dogs until they are deemed ready to team with their person.
In May, the organization also holds a sponsored run, followed by a rock concert – i Run & Rock. Co-founders include James Ward-York Regional Police Services, Wayne Dufour-Barrie Police Service and Nicole Taylor-OR Nurse/Veteran as well as Dog training organization In Canis Speramus and Sam Reid of ‘Glass Tiger’ . Sam Reid has been headlining the i Run & Rock concert for each of the three years the event has taken place.
Ernie’s Journey is an outreach program developed by United by Trauma. The first step in providing support to first responders, soldiers and veterans affected with post-traumatic stress disorder is to match them with specific dogs to mitigate the effects of PTSD. Ernie’s Journey, named in honour of X’Caliber (AKA Ernie Taylor). Ernie is a Chocolate Barbet French Water Dog that works with many first responders, soldiers, veterans and medical professionals. One example of PTSD is nightmares. The Service dogs are trained to recognize signs and react accordingly.
As I watched the camaraderie between not only the members of each Ball Hockey team but the entire Emergency Services team, I felt incredibly humble. These are individuals that put themselves at risk every day to make our world a better place. I was truly honored to participate in the event and support these individuals. Volunteers of United by Trauma are primarily first responders and community members.
The inaugural event took place in 2013 after an initial discussion between volunteers from various emergency services, military and medical personnel. This team of peers is made up of passionate individuals who continue to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues so common among emergency responders.
Reactions to frightening situations, such as nervousness, inability to sleep and to replay the event over in one’s mind is normal. These reactions usually subside over time, and the affected person(s) resume their normal activities without further disruption. Post-traumatic stress disorder lasts much longer and can leave a person or persons incapacitated.
PTSD causes people to re-live the traumatic event, having vivid nightmares, flashbacks, or thoughts of the event that seem to come from nowhere. Often, individuals will go out of their way to avoid things or situations that remind them of the event. For example, survivors of an automobile accident might avoid driving, or travel, all together.
PTSD also affects the nervous system as individuals constantly feel ‘on edge,’ startle easily, have a hard time concentrating, feel irritable, and experience difficulty sleeping. They often experience a sense of foreboding, even when they are safe. Some people feel very numb and detach themselves from reality, disconnecting from their physical and mental self and have difficulty feeling emotions.
Without support and treatment, some people may turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with PTSD.
Certain occupations create a greater risk to individuals, and those individuals are more likely to find themselves in dangerous situations. Military personnel, first responders (police, firefighters, and paramedics), doctors, and nurses experience higher rates of PTSD than other professions.
The annual event, hosted by United by Trauma generates valuable funds used to promote research, awareness, and community outreach for the resilient heroes affected by the traumas of their professions. The coming together of colleagues and community members demonstrates a strong network of support to these heroes and lets them know they are not alone.
“We know that our sub-culture is comprised of selfless professionals that tend to put everyone else before themselves and sometimes their families. We are the helpers that spend most of our time taking care of others and solving problems, and then feel frustrated and defeated when we can’t seem to fix our own.
We know that our professions spend countless hours training on how to physically survive every worst-case scenario and that losing is never an option. We also know also know that no one has read us the fine print that we will see, smell, hear, and feel the unimaginable, and that those experiences will stay with us forever.
We are peers that want you to know that you are not alone, that what we feel is normal, and it is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.
Thank you to all that serve and sacrifice in our communities.”
Visit Her and Her Dogs at a later date to learn more about the role of Service Dogs
In Canis Speramus