Stronger together: How a comic and unique Nova Scotia program aim to help those with PTSD
The Landing Strong program, a peer-supported and intensive day program, starts this fall as the first of its kind in Canada.
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Dr. Belinda Seagram believes a new PTSD treatment program she plans to open this fall has the potential to save lives.
The Nova Scotia psychologist said the three-month long day treatment program will be the first of its kind in the country, let alone the Atlantic provinces.
“To my knowledge there’s nothing like this that exists in Canada. We do have some specialized day services, but I don’t think anybody has this kind of community-based, group-based recovery model,” she said.
“With one-on-one work you can do a lot and it’s very necessary, but using peers as a supportive network really can accelerate and allow a level of transformation that isn’t always possible in one-on-one…Really they’re quite complementary.”
Her program, called Landing Strong, is geared towards currently serving and former military members as well as first responders.
“These are people who are hardwired for service. These are amazing citizens of our country and everything about their programming and their DNA is I want to be of use,” she said.
Seagram said it can cost upwards of $100,000 to send someone out of province when there’s not enough local support available to treat PTSD. She estimates Landing Strong would cost about $28,000 per patient.
“It’s too expensive to send them all elsewhere (out of province), so not many of them can get the high intensity services that they might require. I think that lives are lost because of that, and families are broken,” she explained.
“They’re foreseeable crises. You can see them coming, usually a long time ahead, and we just can’t (always) get the resources we need when they need them. With proper resources in place in a timely manner, we can avoid quite a lot of the crises that we see happening.”
Seagram said having a program based closer to home means that a community of support is more easily accessible for those who want follow up care or to access what the program offers at whatever level is required. She said recovery doesn’t happen in isolation.
“My goal is to create a world class model that’s potentially replicable. We have the opportunity to create a pilot in Nova Scotia,” she said.
She expects to begin offering the Landing Strong program out of the Cedar Centre in Windsor this fall. Construction is already well underway at the facility, which she describes as a cozy, warm and welcoming space that’s not unlike a spa.
The centre’s patients will benefit from other specialists, including a physiotherapist, exercise physiologist, and a nutritionist who’ll be onsite.
In addition to the group-based work, the program will also offer things like emotions management, mindfulness based work, and yoga.
“We’re looking at the whole realm of occupational stress injuries. It might be anxiety, or it might be depression. A lot of things can happen when people are exposed to trauma,” she said.
“People often experience pain physically even though the root of it might be psychological, or it could be a combination, so we really need to look at the mind-body connection and treat the whole person.”
As part of her desire to help PTSD sufferers and break down the stigma around mental illness, Seagram has also paired with illustrator Martin Crawford and created a comic book series called PTSD Hero Comics.
“You don’t need to be deployed to be injured. I deal with a lot of volunteer firefighters, RCMP members, police officers, they have compound trauma, they have repeated trauma exposure and that can have very much the same effects as trauma that might happen in a war zone,” Seagram explained.
“We really can’t differentiate. The idea is people can be fearful of the stigma of coming forward and accessing care and so we want to remove that stigma, we want to normalize what’s happening.”
Seagram received funding from the provincial department of communities, culture and heritage to help publish the comic series. She said the hope is that through the characters, those who are struggling can recognize themselves and see that there is hope for recovery.
She and Crawford are now looking for volunteers interested in reviewing the comic book series and volunteers wanting to help “test drive” the video launch of the comic series and offer feedback.
Visit the Landing Strong website to learn more about volunteering or to sign up for the treatment program's newsletter.