PTSD, trauma amongst first responders focus of new Alberta retreat

CALGARY — A new chapter for many Albertans began on a ranch just outside of Cochrane Saturday.

The Wayfinders Wellness Retreat is a new approach to helping those on the frontlines who are suffering from trauma.

The Wineglass Ranch will play host to first responders and military veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or operational stress injury (OSI), in an effort to begin their healing process.

About a hundred people, including volunteers, first responders and those who have experienced trauma, were at the ranch for a ribbon cutting.

“Having a facility like this 25 years ago would have saved a lot of lives,” organizer Dan Kroffat said. “Having the conversation allows you to move forward.”

Conversation was the theme of the day Saturday.

Those with Wayfinders Wellness believe that speaking to others who have shared experiences can act as a release. Three speakers were on hand to share their personal stories of triumph from traumatic events in their past.

Kroffat was one of those people.

“I’m sharing my story, and I think it’s critical,” he said. “We may be the first steps forward in starting a movement. 30 or 40 years ago (this) may not have been as well received as it is today.”

Kroffat spoke of his time in British Columbia as a prison worker who was held hostage by inmate. He said he struggled with his mental health for years after the event — and many others echoed his sentiment.

Calgary police officer Paul Wagman didn’t know the extent of his PTSD for four years after his injury was triggered.

“I needed to know beyond doctors and drugs, there are other options,” he told CTV News.

Wagman played an instrumental role in getting the retreat off the ground. It’ll eventually offer different types of treatment — like equine therapy and nature meditation — that he believes will help those who visit.

“We would like to offer a respite location, post-trauma, where (visitors) can come settle and build their resiliency there for the long run,” Wagman said. “They can come as teams or individuals and we will provide them hope from a peer perspective.”

Wayfinders treatment programs have already begun, but the ultimate goal is to have the entire facility on the ranch up and running in the next year.

The non-profit group says it needs help from the community to continue to provide services. If you’d like to donate or to learn more about the programs Wayfinders offers, visit them online.

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