Bruno Guevremont, a veteran who suffers from PTSD, spoke to Checkup's host Duncan McCue during our show on working with disability. Listen to their conversation below.
After 15 years in the Canadian Armed Forces and two tours in Afghanistan Bruno Guevremont was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and had to call it quits.
"I was hyper-vigilant. I was seeing things that, here in society, our brain filters out, but overseas would keep me alive. I would have depression and anxiety, and never having experienced that before I was responding with anger," Guevremont said.
Guevremont faced challenges many of us could never dream of. He says he is the only member of the Canadian Armed Forces to dismantle a suicide vest with a live bomber still wearing it.
He said he would have happily stayed in the army, but instead he was given a medical release.
"Once you're diagnosed with a lifelong injury you're no longer deployable, and no longer employable in the army."
Guevremont now owns a successful CrossFit gym in Victoria, and was Team Canada's captain for the 2016 Invictus Games. However, his success is rare among veterans. The entrepreneur says transitioning out of military life can be difficult for veterans, whether they're injured or not.
"Being in the military, you are conditioned to think 'this is who you are.' You need to reinvent yourself," he said.
"Vets don't know they have the skills [employers] are looking for, it's just a different language we use in the military. They need to translate those skills to the civilian world.
'They had lost their identity'
A report released by the Veteran Transition Advisory Council, a subcommittee of the national charity the True Patriot Love Foundation, says that over the past 15 years, more than 140,000 Armed Forces personnel have left the military. And, that while the unemployment rate is the same for vets as it is for the rest of Canadians, the salaries are much lower, as is the quality of the work, the report said.
Vicky Gosling, a former CEO of the Invictus Games, is a 22 year veteran of the British Royal Air Force. Gosling is now the director of the Sage Foundation Military Program — a philanthropic effort by the U.K. accounting software company, Sage, to help veterans transition to civilian life successfully.
"I've seen people getting blown up Iraq. Seeing them in hospital...they had lost their identity. The lifestyle they knew was taken away from them," said Gosling.
"Civilian life is a completely alien environment. These people have been to war and looked the worst in the eye."
An honest conversation
Gosling and Guevremont both believe that, with time and patience, veterans can be assets to an employer.
"What has to happen is, these organizations have to understand they have to give the individual trust, support and understanding — make them feel like they belong. And mentoring has an awful lot to do with that," said Gosling.
Guevremont was given access to business leaders as mentors, through both the Sage program and True Patriot Love. He is now mentoring other veterans as they make their way into civilian life and work.
"I think that the people who have disabilities have a little bit more grit because they have to face everyday life with their disabilities," said Guevremont.
"We need to open the dialogue about mental health and disability — once we open it we can have an honest conversation about what we need to work with."
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