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PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder impacts an estimated 9.2% of Canadians during their lifetime.
Our guest today is not a statistic; Ronley Arnold was impacted by PTSD in the workplace. Join us to hear his story of recovery, the surprising places he found support and the disappointing trends that continue in mental health.
If you, or someone you know, is impacted by PTSD, please contact the Canadian Mental Health Association, or, for Veterans and First Responders, OSI-CAN.
PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder impacts an estimated 9.2% of Canadians during their lifetime. Our guest today is not a statistic. He’s here to share his story and the support that he found in our community. I’d like to introduce you to Ronley Arnold. Ronley. Welcome.
Thank you for being here. Let’s start off with a little bit of an introduction. Tell us a bit about yourself and where you work.
Well, I have found myself a position working with OSI-CAN or operational stress injuries Canada as a communications coordinator. So essentially what I do is I help with the online and virtual communication of the OSI-CAN needs to try and improve awareness about not only PTSD, but also I can always access services of everywhere we have within reach.
Okay, okay. And you guys are provincial, actually, you’re a national organization and you work for the provincial chapter. Is that correct? That is correct. Okay, so these supports are then available across Canada? Are they exactly the same in every province? Or is it a little bit different province to province?
Actually we are in Western Canada, we are really slowly building and we will be growing further as we go along. Our services, a lot of them are similar in other provinces, but they are run a little bit differently according to the needs and the resources that they’ve developed in those other provinces.
Okay, so let’s talk about where the need for the services came from in the first place. So wherever you were in your life in your career, Something brought you to OSI-CAN take us back, if you can, to what was happening in your life that made you recognize you needed to find some help?
Well, for me, I was diagnosed with PTSD. And I had gotten quite upset that there didn’t seem to be any resources for those with PTSD across the province. Okay. And so I was having difficulty trying to get the help I needed. I knew I needed to not only function in society, but even to be able to associate with my family properly. Got it.
Okay. And can you talk about what was happening in your life that made you recognize that you had PTSD or, or how you were able to determine that that’s what it was?
Oh, it was, emotionally, it was a pretty painful time. I was, at my worst, isolating myself in my basement. So my family couldn’t see me. I would disappear from society, I was having almost no contact with my immediate family or my extended family. A lot of them didn’t know what was going on with me. They just knew that I didn’t want to come and come out and meet with any of them or go for coffee or anything like that.
Yeah. So some antisocial kind of tendencies were coming out, essentially, yes. Yep. And is that quite contrary to who you typically are? Are you a pretty social guy love to hang out with family, and I’m generally
Quite social. At least I was before. I did well with people. I was actually a public speaker. I used to teach public speaking with the cadet program. I used to teach instruction. And I would get along quite well with a lot of people.
Right. Okay. And so all of that was starting to change. Yes. Was your family part of the impetus to get help? Or did you recognize yourself that, you know, things that something wasn’t right?
A lot of observations other people had of me like I was basically behaving outside of I hit 10. When I got PTSD, it was from 10 years in corrections. Okay. And I was starting to behave the way I do at work at my home, and how I responded to my wife and my kids.
Yep. And so very militant.
Yeah. If that’s a word, I don’t know if that’s even a word. Oh, it is. How old were your kids at the time?
They were about… Oh, man. I honestly am not sure how old they were at the time when this all started.
Okay. Yep. Either way, it’s gonna have a pretty significant impact on them, I would think because our kids look to us to be consistent, but you know, have some compassion, have some empathy, right? Those sorts of things. And yep, I would guess that those were difficult emotions to get to. Was there any other? Was there any other? I don’t know, I’ll call them side effects or symptoms that you were experiencing? Anger, finding that you were drinking more than usual? What else? What, if anything, else were you finding?
Well, I was getting angry at a lot of things very easily. My driving had become a lot more aggressive and risky.
I actually had gotten into a car accident at one point, from the fears I was having, and having difficulty concentrating. Because I would look for dangers everywhere. And so it became getting to a point where I could not avoid feelings, and I couldn’t put them away and then concentrate on my driving, concentrate on what I was doing. And it was affecting everything that I did.
Exactly. It was 24 hours a day, with the exception of you know, hopefully, still getting some sleep and maybe even that was disturbed. It was set on your shoulders for a long time. So let’s talk about that then. Because anytime we’re expecting, sorry, experiencing that emotional stress. Everybody carries it differently. I know I’m a shoulder carrier. Where did you feel it in your body? And you know, when you started to heal and get better, did you find that there was that weightlifting sensation that they often talk about?
For me, it wasn’t really lifting a weight off of my body. It became almost more of a pressure. I didn’t feel as tight in my chest, I was breathing more controlled. Those were the kinds of things that were going on with me that there was almost a pressure going, pressing in on me. Yep.
Okay, that makes some sense to me then. So talk about getting help. Let’s talk about OSI-CAN and how you’ve been able to find the support. And now in fact, you’ve made that your career. So let’s talk about that.
Well, initially, I was, as I said, I was quite upset that there wasn’t anything out there. So I started calling around to see if anything can be done because WCB was not recognizing mental health issues. Ah, okay. At the time they were starting to know but at the time, they did not. Okay. And so I started calling around so I’d actually gotten some backup from my local MLA. I started phoning around so they suggested phoning around to places like the firefighters.
Okay, yeah. Okay, that makes sense. And when I contacted
the Regina firefighters organization, they actually pointed me to OSI-CAN.
Ah, so they were aware of it already. Yes. Okay.
And knew that they were making an effort to try and make some changes at WCB. Called the presumptive clause. And they also had a group that was available. So I contacted OSI-CAN. They said the contact was through either the Legion or through the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Okay. Oh, boy. So there’s pathways and channels that you have to find and follow to find the support that
There was a time Yes. Yeah.
Is it easier now,
It is a lot easier. Now we’ve got a full website we’ve got as a direct line of contact towards the director of OSI-CAN now. And you just basically you don’t, you can contact the Legion and they will basically give you the information, or the CMHA will do the same. But generally, if you type in OSI-CAN into Google, up we come.
Exactly, yes. And I know you’re also working on being that top result for someone searching for PTSD, or you know, some of those keywords that you’re working on because you want people to be able to find you easily. So at the time that you found OSI-CAN there was no website it was almost a word of mouth type of network. It sounds like then, just about Yeah, yeah. And you know, I think, yes, I can understand why that might happen. But it’s unfortunate that that was the case, because for a lot of people depending on how deep they are into their mental health crisis. Your ability to seek out support gets less and less EFS as your health starts to deteriorate, so the harder it is to find, the less people are going to start to find those supports.
So it is also very difficult to admit that you need support.
Okay, let’s talk about that. So was that a hard thing for you to run? Like?
Yes, it was, it was quite difficult because I had to admit the PTSD was an issue. I had to admit that i The problem wasn’t everyone else. It was happening within me.
Yep. And do you think that that stigma has started to change? Because as a former corrections worker, like that’s pretty, I’ll call it a macho environment. That’s an environment where I would think it would be particularly difficult to say, hey, yeah, you know what, guys, I need some help.
That was difficult to do. The stigma is improving. Sometimes, it’s almost the stigma that we hold ourselves. Mm hmm. That makes it an issue to try and call for help. Yes. But also whether or not if you have to admit that you have PTSD, a lot of times you almost lose the support of your co-workers. And so you need an organization like OSI-CAN, which is now a program of the CMHA. To be able to find that help.
So okay, that’s interesting. So it felt like you were losing support of your colleagues. Tell me about that. Why do you think that was,
It was a lack of understanding a lot of my colleagues I never heard from again, after I stopped working. And they only understood they’re at the jail. And a lot of the principle of what goes on there is if you start to have problems, the question is, maybe you should find somewhere else to find a new job, a new career. And then once you leave, you’re not the immediate problem, which is how you operate at the Correctional Center, you deal with the issues happening right then and there.
And so does that. Does that inference come from your colleagues? Or does that come from higher ups? Or maybe I should speak in past terms? Did it come from higher ups?
A lot of it came from those higher up? Because once you found somewhere new to be, they didn’t have many resources to offer either.
WCB took over, it’s no longer their problem.
Oh, okay. So that’s so even in that process, with PTSD not being recognized? Was it still considered a workplace injury? And disability? Is that where, where the process starts with them? Or what did that journey look like for you?
Well, with them WCB has now started to recognize it as a workplace injury. Okay. Before you had to be able to prove it, and prove that it was something from your workplace, which was very difficult to do.
Yeah. How do you do that? Like, even even as you say that out loud, I think, how in the heck, do you ever prove that something came from, you know, the workplace versus, you know, common life? Yes. How did you prove it?
For me, it was that presumptive clause, it was the fact that I could point to certain incidents that actually were videotaped. And they were there in my reports, and in the things that I wrote down, I could point to those incidents and be able to prove that something had occurred at work.
Got it. Okay. And being in that corrections environment, I can, I can just imagine some of what you’ve seen and heard and stuff over the years and the, the average citizen out there doesn’t want to know, right, like, that’s one of those things that, you know, people don’t talk about, because they don’t want to know about what goes on behind that closed door. Right. Exactly. Yep. So I can just imagine, okay, so then when you found the OSI-CAN intake process, you found a support group. Has it been smooth sailing ever since?
No, I wouldn’t say smooth sailing, but the support that I got from them has been very very low stress.
Yep. So you found a support group. So do they still have a number of different support groups?
Yes, we do. To across the province and in other provinces as well.
Okay, and so what would a support group look like?
We have a total of 16. Like I now run one of those support groups. And you essentially come in. And even if you don’t want to tell your story yet, you can hear the stories of others. And we often talk about what has gone on in our lives, even just in the last week, or in the last year, if we need it out, that is a place where you can get it out.
Got it. Okay. And so you have males and females that come together, do the groups have particular topics that they talk about? Or is it really just a safe place to talk about whatever?
Well, it is recovery focused on the location, the idea is you come in, and you talk about what is going on. And it is focused on how you can actually become a little bit less damaged or harmed by your situation. And so you are able to deal with your family to go to something as simple as going to a large store. Basically, all of it is something that we encourage people to go see their psychologist, see a psychiatrist, see their doctor, try and get that medical help, as well as the emotional health that you get from the group.
Right. Okay. And do you find that a lot of relationships are forged in those groups, then?
Oh, very much. So. Yes. Yeah.
So you, you knew your group almost right.
Unknown Speaker 16:48
Yes, exactly. Yeah.
Well, it is pure sport. Exactly. Yeah. Known
As other people who understand what you are going through. And they have been through similar circumstances themselves, like PTSD comes in many shapes and sizes. So for us, it is those who have had experiences similar to our own.
Okay. So let’s talk about those signs and symptoms for a minute. You talked about your own experiences and how you knew you needed to reach out for help, what would be some of those common signs and symptoms that others might be experiencing?
Well, like we said, there was a lot of anger, that you are very quick to anger, you’re very quick to suddenly have fear. And it’s that kind of fight or flight mode that you go into very quickly. For me, whenever somebody slant, like I would go to the gym, as I was encouraged to and it was, I had support to help pay for going to the gym on a regular basis. The problem was that every time I heard the weights slamming together of somebody else working on their barbells, I would automatically flinch and suddenly go into panic mode. And I’d be looking around at all these mirrors where there’s tons of people looking around at what’s going on. And I would go into a panic attack.
I did not sleep well. I had strong anxiety. I definitely had issues with depression. Okay. And there were a lot of cases of isolation where I would disappear. My family would often wonder what happened to me. There was a Christmas get together one year, up north, and I disappeared into another area of the hotel. Nobody knew where I was. Nobody knew what I was doing. And all I was trying to do is bring my breathing back under control.
Yeah. Just trying to get away from it a bit. Yeah, yes. And if your family or even if only parts of your family, were aware that you were experiencing some signs of depression, then when you disappear like that, that puts a whole new level of anxiety and everyone else’s minds then to
Oh, very much. So yes. And they will often become afraid of what they can say to me and what they couldn’t say to me. There were times when I wanted to, like, my depression got so bad, and my fears got so bad. I wanted it to be over in any way that I could find. And luckily, I called up for help before it got to the point where I would look at ending things entirely.
Exactly. So let’s talk about that. Then, as an organization, how do you get your message out there?
A lot of the time it goes by word of mouth. So if someone has heard of OSI-CAN they refer someone else to it? We’ve Got it up on Facebook, we’ve got it up on Instagram. We’ve got the information going out on the website through the regular media, things like that. We’ve also got our public service announcements coming out soon. In fact, they’re starting today, with CTV
Got it? Oh, awesome, okay.
And it’s going to be very intense when people are going to be able to see for themselves, but they have to understand that, oh, wow, someone else actually has been through this, someone else might understand what I’m going through.
Okay. And so in getting the message out to any of these new people that are out there, do you even have the support that you need for the number of people who may reach out to the organization
I do now have like, we’ve got the support needed. We treat that for others, we actually encourage them to talk to each other in the groups. We have our leads, June is PTSD Awareness Month. So we are working very hard on making sure that information gets out there. Yep, we’ve even got our healing with horses retreat. Okay, that allows people to come over, we, it’s for a very small price, because we find people are very open to attending something that they have paid for. Yep. But if it’s inexpensive, they show up. They get to interact with the horses with each other, they get to experience a little bit of what it would be like to have counseling, art therapy, different things like that. So they learn about those different modes of healing.
So why do you think that healing with horses retreat is so popular? I know you and I have talked about it before? A What is it about horses that are so calming? And when is the next retreat? And how would someone participate?
Well, the next retreat, we’ve got the family one that is coming up soon, we’ve got one in Prince Albert. And we’ve got one in August. That’s for adults only. Okay. Yeah, July 9 is the family retreat where we get to bring kids ages six and up. Yep. And so what it is, is that when you get there, the horses, what they do is they mirror our emotions. So when we start to feel around those horses, if we feel like we’re concerned, we don’t want to go, you know, we’re scared of the horse, the horse will also pick up on that and we’ll stay back. But if we start to relax a little bit and start to release, the horse will approach okay. And it helps with finding symptom management with those horses. Got it?
Okay, so do the therapy horses have some special training? Or is this very intuitive for a horse?
A lot of it is intuitive, but there is special training the horses go through. Okay. So Equine Assisted Learning is the program that they’re taught. And so they learn how to respond to a person who’s going through that. Yeah. So that way, otherwise, a horse might rear up or whatever else, but a calm, very well managed horse will actually respond appropriately, and not cause something even more fearful.
Exactly. We only have about two minutes. And I want to ask you two quick questions. So first, can you just talk to us also about your service dog? How you found a service dog or how you were, I suppose, matched with a service dog?
Essentially, I was matched. This is currently my second service dog. But what it was is that I had been encouraged to try and find some kind of support that I could have with me 24 hours a day. And my Cert and a service dog was that the dog was provided by OSI-CAN. Okay, I was given some training in terms of how to interact with the dog and the different commands the different what to expect from the service dog. And now I’m actually going into a slightly different situation where the dog is actually a puppy. My other dog has retired.
And she’s actually enjoying life on a farm.
Ah, okay. Real farm Ron Lee. Yes.
Yeah. Yeah. Your parents say to you Is your kids happy?
Exactly. Exactly. Okay, run late, we need to wrap up. So just quickly, please tell everyone where they can find OSI-CAN and what they should do if they or a family member if they believe that somebody needs some support. So tell us, please.
Well, you can contact us at www.osican.sk.ca, or you can find us at OSICANrecover on Facebook. There, we have lots of information for support of how to support a person going through PTSD, what support we have available for them. And we regularly changed the information and brought updates along as well.
Awesome. All right. Thank you, Ronley. I so appreciate you joining us today to talk about your story and talk about the support that is out there because with nearly 10% of the Canadian population impacted at some point during their life, there is a significant number of people in our community who need support. If you or someone that you care about needs support, please look up each of the contact details that Ronley just shared so you can get the support that you need.
If you would like to be a guest on the show, you can email me at Barb@abovethefold.live or reach out on our Facebook and Instagram page at Abovethefold.ca
I’m your host Barb McGrath, local business owner and Google girl. Remember, you worked hard for your success. Don’t keep it a secret. Bye for now.