Police officer hopes to transform ranch into PTSD healing oasis

A Calgary police officer is hoping an old ranch can be turned into a healing oasis for struggling first responders.

Cochrane farmhouse to host first responders helping each other with trauma

The Wineglass Wellness Retreat will be hosted at this farmhouse on a ranch southwest of Cochrane. (Mike Symington/CBC)

A Calgary police officer is hoping an old ranch can be turned into a healing oasis for struggling first responders.

Det. Paul Wagman with the Calgary Police Service has launched the Wineglass Wellness Retreat in Cochrane, where he hopes to eventually offer various therapy programs for those with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The first responders, military have really been under an intense spot spotlight when it comes to mental health," Wagman told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday. "First responders and military, historically, have always been there for our country on the front lines and that'll never change. We sacrifice time and time again."

Wagman said he has brought together a team, through the Wineglass Wellness Retreat, to offer a collaborative approach and a mix of traditional and non-traditional therapies to help guide first responders through healing from trauma and PTSD.

Det. Paul Wagman is starting a retreat for first responders struggling with trauma. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Wagman himself suffers from PTSD. The detective responded to the scene of a mass murder in 2008 in the Dalhousie neighbourhood of Calgary. Joseph Lall stabbed his wife, two of his three children and his tenant to death before killing himself.

"Being on a journey of wellness and healing from something like that is continual," Wagman said.

Counselling, equine therapy

On Thursday, the retreat held an event to fundraise $50,0000 to renovate the old WineGlass Ranch farmhouse, donated by the Wearmouth and Eklund family, and get the programs in place.

In addition to overall upgrades, the group wants to add a "sensory room" to hold meditation classes.

They also want to install a large deck to offer group yoga, as well as fresh air counselling and therapy sessions. Jessica van der Hoek, a former first responder, will be offering equine therapy sessions, and Wagman said he has partnered with former Tsuut'ina chief Lee Crowchild to offer First Nations healing techniques.

The Wineglass Wellness Retreat offers access to nature and water. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Wagman said he hopes music therapy and guest speakers may be offered, and that access to nature on the large property will also help. So far, the plan is for day programs, not residential.

"That's where we're bringing all these modalities to wellness and healing to the table, so we can empower our target group to choose their healing and reach them with things that might interest them," he said. "I mean, essentially, I feel we're going to save some lives."

Wagman noted that those struggling with the fallout of trauma can suffer other personal problems, like marital issues, as well. 

The fundraiser includes having first responders self-isolate temporarily to illustrate the loneliness felt by those with PTSD, he said. While isolated, they'll share their stories through photos and videos. 

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.


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