Saskatchewan

PTSD a treatable injury, says recovering Saskatchewan Mountie

RCMP Const. Ariane Muirhead is organizing a charity golf event this Saturday in Fort Qu'Appelle to raise awareness and money for first responders struggling with PTSD.

First responders with PTSD to share experiences at Echo Ridge golf tournament Saturday

Const. Ariane Muirhead was diagnosed with PTSD after a traumatic incident on the job left her struggling with anger, sleeplessness and substance abuse issues. (Ariane Muirhead)

A Saskatchewan Mountie, who lives with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), wants other first responders to see it is an injury, not a death sentence.

Const. Ariane Muirhead is organizing a charity golf event this Saturday in Fort Qu'Appelle to raise awareness and money for first responders struggling with PTSD.

She was diagnosed with the illness in 2010, after responding to a particularly traumatic incident.

"I would describe it for myself almost like having a monster living inside your head," Muirhead told CBC Morning Edition host Stefani Langenegger.

Const. Ariane Muirhead (right), with her father Robert Muirhead (left), joined the RCMP in 2009. (Ariane Muirhead)
"Sort of a monster inside there telling you you're weak and pathetic, and you're supposed to be out helping the public and you're at home being paid to do nothing." 

The symptoms started in late 2012 with flashbacks, trouble sleeping and anger. That eventually led to alcohol and prescription morphine abuse. 

"It got to a point where there were a few occasions where I was ready to end my life," said Muirhead.

Her family, friends and colleagues noticed something was wrong before she did.

"I remember my mom saying, 'Who are you? You're not the same person you were a few years ago.'"
    
Finally, she approached the RCMP's employee assistance program and described the guilt and grief she was experiencing over the incident to a member.

He referred her to a psychologist who diagnosed Muirhead with PTSD.

At first she was embarrassed to tell her supervisor and colleagues because of the stigma connected to mental illness, but she realized it was important that they knew.

Eventually, with help, Muirhead was able to get better. 

"I will always have PTSD, but I now have the knowledge and the skills to be able to deal with a trigger — to be able to deal with something that causes some of those emotions and know that it's okay."

Raising awareness for first responders living with PTSD

Const. Ariane Muirhead is working to spread awareness about PTSD and the impact it has on first responders. (RCMP)
Now she works to raise public awareness about the illness and the supports that are available to those living with it.

"I think we need people to understand — the public and the PTSD organizations — we need to let them know that this is something that can happen, that it is okay, that it is an injury, that you're no different then someone who has been stabbed or hit by a car."

She has organized a First Responder PTSD Awareness' charity golf tournament at Echo Ridge golf course this Saturday. 

Representatives of the military, navy, RCMP, EMS and the Fort Qu'Appelle fire department who have PTSD will be there to speak about their experiences.

Members of the public, who are not golfing, are also invited to attend the event and join in on the conversation.

"The 100 per cent goal? [I] do not want to see anymore first responders lose their lives to this illness— an injury that is very treatable."

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