Terrance Kosikar, a former first responder who was first on the scene at a deadly accident at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, suffered years of PTSD and now offers help to other emergency responders who may be coping with the stresses of their jobs. Kosikar will be a guest speaker at the First Responder Family Fundraiser and Community Dinner being held at Dutch Lake Community Centre on March 29. Photo by Joern Rohde

Helping the helpers: understanding PTSD

Presentation to offer education and tools in dealing with extreme stress

Many people rely on first responders in times of crisis, but filling the shoes of emergency personnel can take its toll.

That’s why organizers of the First Responder Family Fundraiser and Community Dinner are hosting the event—where aside from bringing needed attention to the stress placed on those we rely on most—money will be raised to send a local first responder to Camp My Way.

Camp My Way was started by former firefighter and emergency responder Terrance Kosikar, who’ll be guest speaking at the dinner, as a wilderness therapy program for Canadian Armed Forces Veterans, first responders and their families who’ve been affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“What I feel is important about this event is it’s not only for the first responders, but more importantly their spouses and especially the communities they serve; (it’s important) the community understands what the first responder and the family is going through, then we’re more able to understand we’re only human and we need to support each other a little bit more,” said Kosikar.

“I feel there’s not enough education and understanding around mental health, PTSD and substance abuse. We’re so easy to put on that mask everyday and pretend it’s okay when it’s not.”

The event, taking place at Dutch Lake Community Centre on March 29, will feature an interactive presentation offering natural self care tools and education on PTSD, mental health as well as substance abuse challenges.

It will also show attendees other solutions to help prepare them and their families for handling the inevitable stresses found at home and at work.

“(A group of us) are doing a tour around B.C., going to fire departments, search and rescues and police officers, because nobody is doing this anywhere in Canada and we need to start because the suicide rate is high for first responders in Canada,” he said.

“The government isn’t doing anything about it, the departments don’t know what to do about it, so we’re going to do something about it. We need to start taking the preventative measures and bring a better understanding (to the issue) and also give people a few tools they can use, not after they’ve been broken, depressed, or anxious, but tools they can use at home with their families.”

Kosikar was a first responder to a deadly accident at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics where he was unable to revive an injured athlete.

He suffered several years of severe depression because of the incident and went through suicide attempts while battling substance abuse, which in turn caused the loss of his family and career.

After hitting bottom Kosikar found help by escaping into nature where he found peace and purpose in the beauty and simplicity of the back-country.

Now he’s taken it upon himself to help others who are struggling, not after the fact, but by using preventative measures to stop those who are at-risk, as well as their families, from spiraling out of control in the first place.

One tool he said works is just taking time every morning as a family, having a breather, and just talking to one another.

“In any time of the day, if we’re lucky and the schedules align, we get to have dinner together and that’s it, so when the spouse or child is having a tough day, when a fire fighter’s having a tough day, we leave it all up to the department, or the school, or the counsellor to fix us—I want to prevent us from having to go to those places, we should be able to help each other at home,” he said.

“You take that 15 minutes every morning, hit the brake, put the phones down, put the busy lives and everything outside the home, put it aside for a minute and take a nice deep breath—five seconds in, five seconds out and say, ‘Good morning, how are you today? Let’s have a great day.”

Kosikar also recommends taking 15 minutes each evening as well to discuss how everyone in the house is doing so everyone knows what the others are going through and nobody is dealing with stress internally, which can build and manifest itself in damaging ways.

To learn more of these tools, or just to support the cause, the First Responder and Community Dinner begins at 5 p.m. with Kosikar’s presentation starting at 6 p.m.

Anyone looking to take part is encouraged to RSVP by March 22. For more info contact Dawn at 250-320-6288 or at dawnwright.dw@gmail.com or Melody at 250-674-7963 or melromeo@telus.net.

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