PEI

Veteran recognized for service and effort to help others with PTSD

Sgt. Gene Dowling, a recipient of the City's of Charlottetown's Veterans Recognition Award, says being in the military is totally different than anything a person does in the civilian world.

Dowling says he suffered with PTSD for 12 years before seeking help

Gene Dowling says seeing others make progress in dealing with PTSD is rewarding. (Mitch Cormier/CBC)

Sgt. Gene Dowling, a recipient of the City's of Charlottetown's Veterans Recognition Award, says being in the military is totally different than anything a person does in the civilian world. 

"What stands out for me is the attachment, almost like family ... the camaraderie that you have with everybody. After I left the military that was missed for years." 

Dowling served with the Canadian Forces for 21 years before he was medically released with an injury to his back while he was serving in Syria. 

"Looking back when I was released from there I had no idea I had PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] at that time but I know I had changed and I was a different person."

Dowling said he knew something was wrong with him but still argued he was OK. 

It took a breakdown and severe depression for Dowling to seek help.

"I couldn't get along with anyone. I just wanted to pack up and move to the woods," he said.

After suffering for 12 years, Dowling said he was able to get help through Veterans Affairs with treatment from psychologists and psychiatrists. 

Blocked from mind

"One of the best things that I finished ... was the veteran's transition network. It helped me dig down deep and there were things that are triggers for me that happened to me in Syria that my mind blocked out for 30 years."

While Dowling admits he sometimes finds it awkward and difficult to talk about having PTSD, he continues to work with veterans with stress injuries like his own. 

The retired veteran now volunteers for Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) and helps other veterans get into the right programs and make them aware they are eligible for help. 

"It's a totally different thing when you have a veteran talking to a veteran. There's nothing else that can compare to that." 

Dowling said seeing others make progress like he is feels rewarding. 

"You've helped your brother and sister out." 

Dowling was honoured as one of seven people recognized during the Charlottetown Veterans Recognition Awards. 

With files from Island Morning

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