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Ottawa concert to help Guitars for Vets

Concert event major fundraiser for vets, active members dealing with PTSD

Séan McCann, one of the founding members of Great Big Sea will perform as part of the concert Friday night.

David Howells / Metro Web Upload

Séan McCann, one of the founding members of Great Big Sea will perform as part of the concert Friday night.

The power of music can lift your spirits, and some veterans struggling with PTSD can attest to how true that is.

To help veterans and serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces cope with mental health struggles that can accompany military service, some people are trying a novel approach: teaching them to play guitar.

Guitars for Vets is a program offered by VETS Canada which provides a free guitar and lessons to CAF and RCMP members who are struggling with PTSD or other service-related occupational stress Injuries. The program has already given away more than 800 guitars, but the demand is increasing, with many people now on a waiting list for a guitar of their own.

That’s where Séan McCann steps in.

McCann, a National Ambassador for Guitars for Vets and founding member of Canadian Folk Rock band Great Big Sea, has agreed to host of a benefit concert along with fellow artists, Joel Plaskett, Sarah Harmer and Jeremy Fisher, with the aim of raising enough money to purchase 700 more guitars for the program

Play Your Part will be held Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. at the Algonquin Commons Theatre in Ottawa.

The theatre seats 700 people and each ticket costs $100, the price of a guitar. So, every ticket sold represents one person with PTSD who will get to experience the healing power of music.

"There's a lot of veterans struggling with PTSD, depression, anxiety. They're looking for anything to help them come out of that dark place," said Debbie Lowther, chair and co-founder of VETS Canada, whose husband Jim Lowther served for 15 years in the CAF and was diagnosed with PTSD in 2002.

"When he first picked up a guitar how it broke the cycle of despair in his head. Playing the guitar really takes your mind away. You have to focus on something else besides the terrible thoughts happening in your head."

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