Pounding the pavement to raise PTSD awareness

Wearing their uniforms, participants in this year's Wounded Warrior Run B.C. gather at Jim Pattison Subaru in Colwood to kick-off the fundraising campaign. Photo by John W. Penner, John's Photography

Wearing their uniforms, participants in this year’s Wounded Warrior Run B.C. gather at Jim Pattison Subaru in Colwood to kick-off the fundraising campaign. Photo by John W. Penner, John’s Photography

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

With each stride they take, the participants in this year’s Wounded Warrior Run B.C. know they are changing the attitudes surrounding mental illness and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

On Feb. 20, a team of seven military and civilian athletes will begin their seven-day, 700 kilometre relay run covering the length of Vancouver Island. The relay run is now its fourth year and co-founder Petty Officer Second Class Allan Kobayashi believes the non-profit charity, which has raised a total of $100,000 for Wounded Warriors Canada since its start, is helping change the perceptions about mental illness and PTSD.

“When I started running four years ago, I introduced myself to people and said ‘I’m Allan and I have PTSD’, many people would look puzzled and really wouldn’t know what I was talking about,” says PO2 Kobayashi. “Now people have empathy and compassion, and want to help or find out more for their own educational purposes.”

Runners will set off from Port Hardy, located on Vancouver Island’s northern tip, and pound the pavement along the Trans-Canada Highway, regardless of rain, snow, wind or shine. If all goes according to plan they will cross the finish line Feb. 26 at 3 p.m. at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 91 in Langford.

PO2 Kobayashi, previously a member of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, was deployed to Kosovo in 1999 and Kabul in 2003. He was diagnosed with PTSD following those deployments. PO2 Kobayashi now works as an analyst for the Naval Training Development Centre and will be the only runner on the team this year to be diagnosed with PTSD.

Like many other PTSD sufferers he says regular physical activity has been the key factor in his recovery. Not only does the exercise offer him an outlet for anxiety, stress and depression, he says being a member of a team of like-minded individuals uniting for a common goal to change the stigma attached to mental illness and PTSD has also been crucial.

“It’s all about overcoming the gap and the fear associated with asking for help. If you don’t have people in the community that are willing to make human contact and look another person in the eye and say I understand PTSD and some of the difficulties you are facing, you can have all multi-billion dollar facilities and the greatest health care professionals in the world treating you but it won’t matter.”

The team also includes returning runner CPO2 Chris Fraser, a Technical Coordinator with Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton; OS Sebastien Deschamps, a Marine Engineer with HMCS Regina; Capt Jacqueline Zweng who works with the Regional Cadet Support Unit; MS Mary McGregor, a claims clerk with Base Administration; Tsartlip First Nation runner Bernice Smith; and Q 100.3 radio-show host Chris Loran.

The relay format typically sees runners log between 17 to 30 kilometers individually each day. Safety vehicles driven by event volunteers help maintain visual contact with the runners while also picking up and dropping off runners along the route.

CPO2 Fraser is an experienced distance runner who estimates he has logged over 40,000 km since he started long-distance running in 2005. Since then has competed in marathons and half marathons at Canadian Forces Running Nationals, and also for the Canadian Forces team at the CISM (Conseil International du Sport Militaire). He’s the only returning runner besides PO2 Kobayashi and says he’s running the relay again because he has several co-workers and friends who have suffered from mental illness and PTSD, and knows the efforts of the runners are helping.

“The stigma associated with mental health and PTSD is slowly decreasing but it hasn’t completely gone away,” he says. “But it’s events like this that raise people’s awareness, gets them talking and realizing you are not alone and you don’t need to be silent.”

PO2 Kobayashi noted as people’s attitudes have changed several businesses and community groups in the area have stepped up to the plate to support his organization, including Thrifty’s Grocery Stores, The Victoria Grizzlies, The Royal Canadian Legion, CTV, Popeye’s Supplements Canada, and Jim Pattison Subaru. Now, says PO2 Kobayashi, it’s up to himself and the other runners to build on last year’s success and push things forward.

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.