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Rolling Barrage stops in North Bay on annual PTSD pilgrimage

The Rolling Barrage 6th Annual Motorcycle Pilgrimage across Canada raises awareness about PTSD with stop at CFB North Bay

Sufferers of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) may unknowingly be taking their frustrations out on family members.

”There are far too many people with PTSD that go through multiple, multiple divorces, and that weighs heavily on the person who has PTSD as well as the families,” shared Jim Gordon a director with The Rolling Barrage.

“There are far too many of us who suffer from PTSD that have a tendency to think we’re protecting the family by not telling them anything, and it is important that we bring the family front and centre with us and let them know they are just as important.”  

Often times it is not just the spouse or partner who suffers, but sadly, young children are also impacted when a parent doesn’t deal with PTSD.

“There are far too many of us that have PTSD that verbally abuse our children, and we ignore our children. And our spouses then have to pick up the slack and raise the kids all by themselves and that in itself is not fair. That’s not parenthood,” said Gordon who actively encourages anyone living with PTSD to get the help they need.

“We pass it on to our kids. So please, at least talk to a friend and don’t forget your family. Let them know what’s going on because it is very confusing to them.”

Gordon gave the example of a young lad in his mid-20s, who after being verbally abused from the age of 10 by his PTSD-suffering father, told his mother that he wanted to take his own life.

The young man agreed to get counselling, just as his father was doing, and slowly the pair started the long journey towards healing their relationship.

Rolling Barrage supports Canadian Armed Forces, Police Services, First Responders, Safety Community, and Emergency Healthcare Providers, to conquer the stigma of PTSD.

Now in its sixth year, the Rolling Barrage (TRB) is a coast-to-coast motorcycle pilgrimage bringing awareness about PTSD to communities across the country, hoping to end the stigma of living with PTSD.

Over 20 motorcyclists left CFB North Bay Monday morning and headed to Sault St. Marie, the next leg of their journey,  which takes them from Halifax, Nova Scotia to their final destination in Vancouver, British Columbia.  

The ride started on July 31 with a ceremonial tire dip in the Atlantic Ocean. The goal is to reach the Pacific Ocean on August 21 for the final tire dip.

By then riders will have completed the 8,500 km journey.  

Some riders are in for the duration, while others ride for just a few days.  

CFB  22 Wing representatives who spoke at the morning send-off, thanked the group for taking on this initiative so that people can start to have those important and long overdue conversations.

They were reminded of the importance of “creating and fostering support and awareness” within the military, especially when it comes to mental health and PTSD.

It was underscored that there is no need for anyone to suffer in silence and that it is okay to stand up and ask for help.

Master Warrant Officer Timothy Gillespie, explained how 22 Wing benefits from the work being done by the foundation.  

“The base benefits simply by raising awareness amongst our members, and helping to remove the stigma of PTSD by letting our people know it is okay to say ‘I need help,’” said Gillespie.

“It helps open the gates to the future. We don’t need our kids coming home wanting to die.”

Gillespie has witnessed firsthand the impact PTSD has on lives.

“I had a neighbour that literally when I hadn’t seen him for a couple of days, I found him in his basement because someone was mowing his lawn and the loud noise scared him. I had another friend of mine walk up to me and say, ‘I can’t go to work today.’ He couldn’t even put his uniform on. “

Help is available to base members.

“I am very, very proud to say even in the past 10 years I’ve seen a change from where we look at someone and say he is a little bit weak, to now we’re like, ‘You know what?  He’s got an injury. Nothing different than a broken leg.’ And it is possible to get help, it is possible to move on.”

It takes strength of character to ask for help because it often means reliving a lot of fear in order to move past it.

“We have multiple programs here on the base. Everything from sentinel to mental health workers on the Wing,” Gillespie pointed out.

“We have multiple helplines we can reach out to and if need be, I can have one of my people in five minutes in front of a mental health specialist.”       

Wing Chaplin Henry Hoy, explains how the sentinel program works.

“It is a peer-to-peer support program that is Chaplin lead and we have about 37 members that are trained in the sentinel program across the Wing. They lend a helping hand and provide support and direct them to resources when someone is in need.”

Paul Harman, one of the three directors for the Rolling Barrage Foundation, and CEO of the event says success is tracked in various ways.

“We raised just shy of $70-thousand in donations alone, when the country was just starting to open up from the pandemic, so that is pretty significant,” said Harman.

Another success was having five First Responders, a mix of fire and police officers, suffering in silence, ask for help.

“After interacting with Rolling Barrage, they came forward after interacting with us and decided after talking to us that they needed to get help themselves. That is extremely successful.”

The number of participants continues to rise.    

 “I would say we are very successful and I’m very proud of what we do. The other piece of success for us is some of the riders who have joined us. We have had for a couple of years at least, where a couple of people have shown up and said ‘I don’t know how far I’m riding with you.  I don’t know how long I can do this.’ And they go coast to coast with us”

Another measure of success is having people open up about their personal experiences for the first time.

“I’ve witnessed it time and again. There are people on this ride who have never spoken about their stories, they have not talked about what is bothering them. They don’t talk about what is deep inside and they open up after about a day or two on their ride. It happens every year. And for me that is an immeasurable success,” said Harman.

Money raised goes towards various PTSD initiatives and programs based on Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs and resources.

“We gave money to someone to help offset their PTSD animal. We’ve funded money for equine therapy. We’ve given money to food banks. We base what we donate on basic needs to survive, food, shelter, etc to the upper-level mental aspects of life.”

For more information on the annual pilgrimage go to