Chad Kennedy of Calgary is walking across the nation to raise awareness for mental health and PTSD among emergency first responders and military. The Free Press caught up with him on April 7, 2022, in Sparwood. (Joshua Fischlin/The Free Press)

Chad Kennedy of Calgary is walking across the nation to raise awareness for mental health and PTSD among emergency first responders and military. The Free Press caught up with him on April 7, 2022, in Sparwood. (Joshua Fischlin/The Free Press)

‘We are not broken’: Chad Kennedy walking across Canada to raise awareness about PTSD

Chad Kennedy started his walk from Cranbrook on April 4, and is heading to Newfoundland on foot

Chad Kennedy of Calgary is in the process of a long walk – starting from Cranbrook on Apr. 4, he plans to walk all the way across Canada, to St. John’s, Newfoundland, to raise awareness for mental health and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among emergency first responders and the military.

“I’m a veteran, I’m a first responder … it saddens me that because of stigma associated to mental health in our communities, we’re afraid to ask for help,” he said in Sparwood on Apr. 7. “We need to change that.”

Kennedy was diagnosed with PTSD in 2018. The experiences that led to the diagnosis began to accumulate between 2008 and 2011, while he was a patroller on Highway 63, which runs through Fort McMurray in Alberta. He said people called it the ‘Highway of Death.’

“It was pretty much every rotation that we were racing down south to either a fatality or a serious injury collision,” he said.

After a transfer away from the area, mental health care (which in that case was brief and ineffective) and medication, he was still saddled with the effects of PTSD.

Then, in July of 2020, an incident occurred that pushed Kennedy over the edge – a “mass casualty bus crash” near Jasper. He and five other law enforcement members were the first ones on scene, without the help of EMS or fire responders.

The incident weighed heavily on Kennedy, and his personal life suffered. “I just went into a really dark, dark hole,” he said.

Soon after the crash, he decided to make the walk across the nation, and he’s been training ever since.

He wonders whether regular visits with a mental health professional through his career might have helped keep the PTSD at bay.

In February of 2021, he finally got the help he needed, and he has been on leave from work since then (doctor’s orders). He said he had finally “hit a brick wall”, and was “afraid to suit up and patrol the highways.”

Now, instead of wearing a uniform, he’s wearing a T-shirt and runners, making his way across the country.

“The biggest thing with post traumatic stress is, we’re not broken. We are not broken. We have this injury that is just not visible. And most importantly, we need to help those who are helping us. Take care of each other. We’re all human beings. Whether we wear a uniform or we don’t wear a uniform, it’s just people taking care of people,” he said.

Through the help, he says that he’s in a “much better state,” mentally.

“I wear a smile on my face that isn’t a mask. I’m not masking anger anymore with the smile. I’m smiling because I’m here. I’m in the now, and I enjoy waking up every morning, smelling the air, and it’s great to be alive.”

Kennedy will be following Hwy. 3 for coming weeks, before joining the Trans Canada Hwy. on his journey to St. John’s.

READ MORE: B.C.’s mental health crisis is bad and getting worse

READ MORE: How to access local mental health and wellness supports with a single phone number


@fishynewswatch
josh.fischlin@thefreepress.ca

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