N.S. psychologist aims to expand PTSD treatment with new centre, comic book

A psychologist in the Windsor, N.S., area is laying the groundwork for a new kind of treatment program for Nova Scotians with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr. Belinda Seagram hopes intensive 3-month day-treatment program will save lives

Dr. Belinda Seagram is behind Landing Strong, a planned day-treatment program for people with PTSD, and PTSD Hero Comics (pictured), a recovery tool to help people having a difficult time with memory, focus and concentration. (PTSD Hero Comics)

A psychologist in the Windsor, N.S., area is laying the groundwork for a new kind of treatment program for Nova Scotians with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr. Belinda Seagram believes Landing Strong would be the first day-treatment program of its type in the province.

"The need is greater than the demand, and lives are being lost," she told CBC Radio's Mainstreet. "I just feel I can't stand by and not do more."

Seagram has treated people suffering from workplace stress injuries including PTSD, anxiety and depression at her practice in Falmouth for eight years, and plans to open Landing Strong this fall at the Cedar Centre in Windsor. 

The three-month intensive program would run from Monday to Friday, helping veterans, police officers and first responders with emotions management, trauma recovery and physical recovery.

'An incredibly powerful way' to help

She said there's nothing wrong with what's in place in Nova Scotia, but vital pieces are missing. 

"I think we do a fantastic job of giving people one-on-one support.… But for those who are needing more intensive, comprehensive support, there's a big hole there."

Dr. Belinda Seagram has had a practice in Falmouth for eight years. (Seagram & Associates)

Having a day-treatment program with other patients would combat the alienation that can come with PTSD, she said.

"Things can happen that can change people's views of themselves or their lives or their communities, so having a peer-based approach of people who have gone through similar circumstances can be an incredibly powerful way of assisting the recovery process so that they're not going through these things in isolation," she said.

'No barriers to care'

Fridays would be community days, allowing anyone who has used the program to come back for as long as they need.

Seagram said the program would cost about $28,000 a patient, but that the province currently sends people out of province when there's not enough support locally, at a cost of about $100,000.

"We want this program to be completely accessible, that there are no barriers to care. All one need do is pick up the phone and say, 'I'm interested and I'm in need of service' and we'd be able to get them into the program."

The renovations done so far have largely been independently funded, but Seagram hopes to partner with Veterans Affairs, the Canadian Forces or other groups.

Comic book

Landing Strong has a new partnership with the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia, and Seagram has already received some funding from the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage for an unusual bit of outreach: a comic book.

Stranger Returns tells the story of Jay, who has post-traumatic stress disorder. (PTSD Hero Comics)

She said people suffering from emotional trauma sometimes have a hard time with memory, focus and concentration. The series of graphic novels Stranger Returns, illustrated by Martin Crawford, helps cut through those difficulties by being user-friendly and visually based, she said.

"People can get lost in the story.… The main character, Jay, his life, he's struggling with post-traumatic stress and people will be able to see elements of themselves in his character and realize, oh, this is kind of what's happening to me.

"So they can understand a bit about their condition, about what recovery looks like, and perhaps have a sense of hope and understand that recovery is indeed possible."