Engines revved and crowds cheered as a motorcycle convoy roared into Okotoks on Wednesday to raise awareness of veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Scott Casey, president of Military Minds — the PTSD peer support organization behind The Rolling Barrage, says the aim is to raise awareness.
The convoy of about 50 bikers, which started in Halifax, has switched cohorts in each province as it heads west to Vancouver.
The Canadian Armed Forces conducted a helicopter flyby during the Okotoks stop to support the cause before they made their way to Cranbrook, B.C.
“We have to bring this awareness out for our combat vets and first responders so they know it’s not weak to speak and they can break the silence,” Casey said.
COVID impacting depression
Since 1979, Casey said more than 1,400 Canadian soldiers have died by suicide.
The event, which is in its fourth year, comes at a time survivors are also facing the stressors that come with the pandemic.
“COVID is definitely hurting a lot of people that already suffer with depression and anxiety issues because now they are forced to stay segregated,” he said.
“And that just further pushes them into the dark hole that they go into, and their demons get out of,” he said.
Karen Harvey comes from a military family; her father served in the Second World War, and her brother was in the Navy.
She rides with the Rolling Barrage because she grew to understand what PTSD is from witnessing their experiences, she said.
“I started reading about PTSD, and then I went, ‘Oh, that’s what was wrong with my dad,'” Harvey said.
“There’s so many that just suffer in silence … and they think there’s just something really wrong with them. And it’s not. It’s treatable.”
In addition to the awareness ride, part of what the Rolling Barrage does is put veterans and first-responders in touch with doctors who can provide treatment.
“We’ll help them sort out the Veterans Affairs Canada paperwork, we’ll help get them on to the right clinicians in their area,” Casey said.
Sometimes soldiers who are still serving are apprehensive to seek treatment because it could impact their careers, Casey said.
The Rolling Barrage helps them find options that will keep this from happening.
“We try to align them with services outside of the regular chains, and get them help that way.”