News

Today is Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving that affords people all around the world the chance to support a charity or non-profit that’s important to them. While there are so many great organizations to support today, and every day, here’s 25 reasons we would love your support.

  1. We support all people affected by trauma, either first-hand or as support people. Trauma affects everyone.
  2. Canada has the highest rate of PTSD in the world, with over 9 per cent of the population developing PTSD over a lifetime. Keep in mind, that not everyone who suffers trauma will develop PTSD, but this is still a staggering number.
  3. Vicarious trauma from PTSD can be passed from parent to child or from client to trauma worker, which is why we also work with therapists, first-responders, teachers and more.
  4. PTSD affects twice as many women as men.
  5. Sexual assault is more likely to cause PTSD than other traumas. In Canada, 1 in 3 people suffers unwanted sexual contact.
  6. Our mindfulness journal is an easy way to support us and give to yourself in the process; journaling and writing are incredible tools in the healing process.
  7. Our Therapy Grant Program allows trauma survivors to access high-quality trauma therapy with trauma-trained and certified psychologists.
  8. For our Therapy Grant Program, we pay our trauma psychologists their regular rate, in order to ensure the utmost quality treatment for our clients, and support these amazing people in the work that they do.
  9. But demand is huge for our Therapy Grant Program. In fact, we have nearly 20 people on a waiting list who are desperately seeking the help they deserve.
  10. Therapy Grant recipient: “If I were to compare where I am at after eight months of involvement with BFF, I would say that I have really started to step up into being more of who I truly am. I have started to love myself much more than I could have ever imagined before. I know I have value now, and I know that what I have to say matters. I now know that I am worthy, and I am so blessed to be able to share energy and a safe space with other people like me.”
  11. Christine Littman: “The cost of proper trauma therapy can be overwhelming and unattainable, making it easy for a person to delay or avoid seeking treatment altogether. Mental health, when ignored or denied, can lead to many other physical and mental issues. To those of us who are just beginning our journey of healing, knowing where and how to start can be an overwhelming and intimidating process. The guidance and direction that the Breaking Free Foundation provides is crucial in helping a person take the first step. A step that can easily be abandoned if trying to face it alone.” 
  12. Our Monthly Meet-ups are a free place for trauma survivors and their supporters to come and talk about anything related to trauma—mental health, addiction, you name it.
  13. We have requests from people in Ontario, Northwest Territories and Manitoba to expand our Meet-up program, and we are working on getting this done!
  14. We are in the process of getting our charitable status, but in the meantime, we work so hard for every dollar we receive. Right now, donations are crucial to our survival.
  15. You can be part of our “me too” movement and support us at the same time by purchasing our “me too” bracelet, designed by Drops of Gratitude in Calgary.
  16. Our annual Victor Walk is a national initiative to raise awareness about childhood rape, and give a voice to those affected by this epidemic. We hope to turn every victim into a Victor.
  17. 32 per cent of Canadians [have] experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse, exposure to intimate partner violence or a combination of these while they were young.
  18. Do you know someone suffering from addiction? Trauma is at the root of addiction.
  19. Do you know someone suffering from depression, anxiety or mental health conditions? Trauma is at the root of mental health problems.
  20. People who suffer from social, economic or educational disadvantage or racism within a given country are more likely to get PTSD than those who don’t.
  21. Did you know 52 first-responders have committed suicide this year so far in Canada? It’s true. This demographic is particularly vulnerable to the effects of PTSD.
  22. EMDR is an incredibly effective therapy treatment for PTSD, but it is expensive, that’s why our Therapy Grant Program is so important.
  23. Every dollar we receive is helping someone dealing with the effects of trauma. We have one employee, our incredible Executive Director, Shandra Carlson. Because of this, a lot of work we do is facilitated by volunteers, so your dollar is really being put to work at BFF!
  24. Someone you know is suffering from PTSD or the lingering effects of trauma.
  25. You can make a difference in someone’s life.

Every week in Canada, PTSD drives at least one first-responder to take their life. So far in 2017, 52 first-responders have committed suicide in Canada, and there were 68 last year. The numbers are real, and they never get easier to hear.

This weekend I was shaken, once again, to hear of the suicide of a first-responder. Someone in Calgary. Someone I knew. Barry Dawson was a 47-year-old firefighter in Calgary, who sadly took his own life on November 11th, after a hard battle with PTSD.

I first met Barry about ten years ago, when I was working at a restaurant in Mount Pleasant in Calgary’s northwest, right across the street from the fire station Barry was working at. Him and his crew would order pizza from us often, and he was always the first one to start up a friendly conversation with myself and the other staff. Over the years, I would see his updates from time to time on Facebook, always with that friendly personality injected into them.

I did not know Barry well, almost not at all. I did not know of his struggles with PTSD, but it does not come as a surprise to me that he lived in this darkness, as so many other first-responders do. I know how crippling PTSD can be, having lived with it for the better part of my life. Trauma drove me to some of the darkest places imaginable, as it does for so many. In fact, many of the people closest to me, including members of our Breaking Free Foundation family, have had their own brushes with suicide.

What makes PTSD so prevalent for first-responders however, is that while many of us have trauma thrust upon us, these courageous people bravely face trauma every single day of their lives on the job. The most terrifying of situations that we strive to protect ourselves and our families from, first-responders deal with head-on, regularly.

I am heartbroken that the loss of another great person is giving us the opportunity to have this conversation, yet again. I am even more saddened by the fact that this tragedy was buried among a news feed that is full of trauma and tragedy. In fact, it was two of my friends who brought Barry’s story to my attention, after they had shared it on their social media channels. These two women are friends that I admire greatly, who are both first-responders as well. Just imagining the struggles they might be facing too, makes me wish I had the power to heal their pain.

But I don’t have that power. I do however, have a voice. And I am constantly reminded in the most obscure of ways, that every time I share something about PTSD, that someone is always listening or reading. So I hope that I am reaching someone today who needs to read this.

You are not alone.

Since working with Breaking Free Foundation and co-facilitating many of our monthly meet-ups, I have met more and more first-responders who are dealing with the struggles of PTSD every day. I know I speak for all of us when I say, we are in awe of the courage that all first-responders show and grateful for the vulnerability those have shown in sharing their struggles with others. Every time you share your story, you are helping someone else. When a “me too” moment happens in front of us, we know a light is opening up for someone who was living in darkness. In saying this, I also want to acknowledge one of our board members, Zoran Zelic, a first-responder who has shown amazing vulnerability at our meet-ups and has been able to connect with others who need to feel heard.

If you feel you are suffering from the effects of PTSD or trauma, I encourage you to tell someone. Reach out for help, or connect with someone you work with. If you want to take part in a conversation about PTSD and trauma, please join us at our next meet-up, on December 13th at The Commons. These are safe places to talk, listen or connect. You can also reach us via our website or on social media if you are looking for some resources in your area.

To all first-responders, thank you for your courage. I promise to never let your stories go unheard.

Me too. 

 

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What an appropriate mental picture of our unsaid words and unresolved issues. We may not physically see the “elephant”, but boy is it there!

“When you avoid something, you automatically create a void.”

Life is filled with experiences – good, bad and ugly – every one of us has them. But what about when hurt happens? What about those moments that shut us down, shut us in? It could be as simple as a misunderstood text or email, or as complex as a traumatic experience that hasn’t been shared with anyone. It could be an incident that impacted you, that the other person has no idea took place.

We had an incident in our family that hasn’t been talked about for years. Over Christmas it came up, a complete surprise for me that anyone even wanted to discuss it. It was a true Christmas gift for all of us. I immediately thought about how we invite the elephant in, feed it, watch it grow until it becomes an adult, and then wonder how we’re going to walk it out the door, because it’s not going to escort itself out.

What happens then, when it gets so big it seems impossible to deal with? I think that’s where the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” comes in. “One bite at a time.” It’s generally used in reference to projects that overwhelm us that we need to dissect into segments so we can manage it, but if we applied that principle to all areas that seem larger than life it could potentially make a significant difference in the long run.

So, why do we tend to avoid our mental health? Or the discussions that need to happen – but haven’t? What about those conversations we know will never take place? Where and how does resolution come? We can be so overwhelmed, feeling hopeless and paralyzed by it. Or we may not even consider its importance. So many of us are willing to take care of our physical health but zoning in on our mental health doesn’t always cross our minds.

“If we cared about our mental health like we care about our dental health, we would be okay.” — Howie Mandel

Mental health carries more significance than most other parts of our being (besides oxygen), because without it we lose so much of who we are. Caring for our mental health may be as simple as an extra half hour of sleep at night. That’s one bite out of the elephant. It may mean being courageous and saying something vs keeping it hidden inside. It could be phoning your mom to tell her you love her, or booking an appointment to talk to someone. I don’t know what those bites might look like, but I do know you’re worth the effort. If you take time to invest in your whole health, you and those you love will most definitely reap the rewards.

Bell Let’s Talk Day is January 27th, and you can participate on social media by using #BellLetsTalk. Find out more about Bell Let’s Talk and ending the stigma around mental health, here.

Helping is healing and healing is possible.

— Written by Shandra Carlson, follow on Twitter