Julius Brown was in Moose Jaw as part of the Swervin Mini Indy held at the Town and Country Mall on Saturday, June 18th. The day was not just about go kart racing but was also a fundraiser and an opportunity to raise awareness for the OSI Canada Program.
The program assists first responders who are suffering from employment related Occupational Stress Injury (commonly known as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
OSI Canada provides assistance to veterans, first responders, social workers, tow truck drivers, child protection workers and all front line protectors.
Their message is a simple one.
“We want people to know that there is hope of recovery,” Brown said.
OSI is caused by a traumatic event or events that cause an individual living with the injury to experience a number of symptoms from sleep interruptions, depression, anxiety and others. OSI is also a treatable injury that in most cases can be improved, if not cured, if treated effectively and appropriately.
A Vietnam veteran he said things have changed when it comes to how society, and not just those in the workforce who face traumatic events, view OSI. There are more supports in the community as well as professionally available.
Supports that did not exist in Brown’s past when he was in the US military.
“When I entered the military 48 years ago I can tell you there wasn’t any help. In fact that is what inspires me to do what I do. For every man or woman who is a part of this program to give forward. Because we recognize there was a time when help didn’t exist.”
Since 2016 the program Brown runs has grown from three initial support groups to 16 support groups scattered across the province. The program has also expanded into Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.
“Raising the public awareness is about trying to promote a help seeking society. We do many things during our daily lives. The one I will use is brushing our teeth as prevention. So what do we do for mental health prevention? We are trying to get individuals, the whole society, we are all in this together. If feel you are dealing with something you should feel easy going to the doctor and saying ‘look can you help me out?”
He said the increase in the number of people seeking help from OSI Canada has grown partially because society’s views have changed but also because the need has grown.
“The amount of support for veterans and first responders in the last six years has grown by leaps and bounds. Actually there is still more work that needs to be done but I have seen so much progress in the last six years. So much so that it is becoming easier for an individual to come forward and say I need some help.”
The stigma surrounding mental disorders persists Brown said but society attitudes are changing. He stressed the need to look at mental health as something a person looks after in a preventive manner and if they need help to just ask for it.
“When it comes to mental health that stigma exists right straight across the board. Whether you are talking the civilian population, first responders or members of the military. Members of the military and our first responders are trained to respond to these events the general populace cannot handle but because of that it makes it a little difficult sometimes, it is more so than women, to find it in yourself to get help,” he said.
Asked if it was more difficult for people in professional careers that deal with traumatic events to come forward but to just “suck it up” Brown said that terminology is no longer used as it is derogatory and not the reason why many don’t seek help if they need it.
“A lot of them have difficulty coming forward because they feel they are letting down their team. If they have to take time off then someone else has to take up the slack.”
Started ion 2016 the program has grown from three original support groups to the present 16.
A main reason is because of the demand but also to be closer to where individuals need and ask for help. OSI Canada is a community based grassroots program that establishes support groups in communities where they are needed.
“We start support groups where the need exists. As we continue we are contacted by other communities that would like to have support with them…it is designed to provide support in communities directly where individuals can access them.”
Part of the program is reaching out to every community asking for help. He would not name any to protect their privacy and confidentiality.
“We have individuals from every demographic, every culture has reached out to us for help,” Brown said.
Confidentiality is observed and key for those who reach out for help.
“When someone contacts us we make sure it does not get back to their employer or others. Our main objective is to make sure they get help,” Brown said.
Brown said the program is not just about group support but if the individual seeking help they will assist them to navigate the mental health system to get appropriate support and help.
“Our program believes in peer and prevention support. What that means at the peer level you are able to have a discussion with someone who is not judgmental that know what it is like to deal with these symptoms because everyone in our support group has lived the experience.”
The program will also help those with OSI navigate what can be at times an overwhelming mental health system.
“If an individual is needing more support than that we have a list of psychologists or counsellors we can refer them to that have been vetted to us. They specialize not only in trauma, but depression, anxiety, sleep disorders that kind of thing.”
In the end though Brown said things have changed for the better.
“It is making it easier and easier for them to come forward to seek help. And ultimately that is what this is about…if you need any help come and talk to us.
To contact OSI Can you may do so by visiting their web-page by clicking the link.