Police officer with PTSD finds purpose in launch of new clothing line
Mark Long says Cracked Armour aims to prompt conversations about mental health among first responders
A Halifax Regional Police officer who has been off work since 2016 due to post-traumatic stress disorder is finding a new purpose.
Mark Long says his line of clothing, Cracked Armour, aims to prompt conversations about mental health among first responders.
"I lost my marriage, I lost my job, I lost my purpose — because my purpose was to help other people," Long said of his PTSD.
Now, he's helping people again.
"People send me messages saying that, by the fact they wore the [Cracked Armour] shirt, they told someone for the first time they had PTSD," Long said.
"We've had orders from all over North America, as far away as California, Yukon and British Columbia."
Encouraging conversations to save lives
Long was diagnosed with PTSD in 2016. He tried a variety of treatments and programs in Canada.
He said he truly saw results in 2018 when he travelled to the United States for a week-long program called Save a Warrior. It was run by veterans and first responders.
"I was more open with sharing my stories because I knew the people that ran the program had been there, they've experienced it," Long said.
On his way home from the program, Long decided to start his clothing line.
First responders of all types recognized
Long has partnered with a clothing embroidery and screen printing company based in Truro, N.S.
He said he wants to acknowledge all first responder groups. He offers custom clothing colours for police officers, firefighters, nurses, paramedics, search and rescue workers, dispatchers, correctional officers and others.
"He's giving everybody their own identity but, at the same time, with the same logo, it puts us all as one group at the same time," said Scott McLeod, a correctional officer who works at the medium-security prison in Springhill, N.S.
McLeod said his job at the prison can be stressful, but it helped that his brother, Sean McLeod, worked alongside him.
"Then in April when we had the mass shooting in Nova Scotia, my brother was one of the victims," McLeod said.
In the weeks following the shooting, McLeod said he sought help.
"Like, I never would've said I had PTSD," he said. "But then after sitting down for a number of sessions with a psychologist, I was told, 'No, you do have PTSD.'"
"To bottle everything up, at some point eventually it will catch up with you," he said.
McLeod said he plans to continue supporting Cracked Armour.
"It's more than just a logo," he said. "It's showing people that first responders are taking all this home with us at the end of the day."
Long hopes to launch new program
Long agrees that bottling up emotions is common among first responders, and slows mental health recovery.
"The shame of saying, 'I have mental health issues or I'm a tough guy and now I can't do the job I used to do,' that's what leads to suicide. That's why I was going to commit suicide. Because it was more difficult to ask for help," he said.
Long said he would like to use proceeds from his clothing line to launch a new program in Nova Scotia that would be similar to the one that he attended in the U.S.
"The money that's coming from this clothing line is going to be the same money that's helping people who are buying the shirts and buying the hats," Long said.