Equine PTSD therapy program to expand

When Laurence Kettlewell left the Canadian army in 2012 with a medical discharge he didn’t think he had PTSD. When the veteran, who served in Bosnia, started retraining for a civilian career he started to recognize the symptoms.

“It was a lot of cognitive function stuff. My memory was horrible. I would walk into a room and forget why I was there. I was horrible at remembering appointments, dates, times, being somewhere where I was supposed to be.” said Kettlewell. “It caused a lot of stress, a lot of anger, and a lot of a lot of frustration.”

Kettlewell and his wife Nicki Armstrong eventually found their way to Can Praxis, an equine assisted therapy provider based in central Alberta near Rocky Mountain House.

“When we went together it was really hard. It was confronting, face on, things that we had not confronted yet. That’s not easy,” said Armstrong

“But it was work that we needed to do. And it gave me hope that there was a future for our marriage, which I didn’t have at that point.”

When Kettlewell and Armstrong attended the Can Praxis therapy sessions the program was only for veterans, or first responders and their spouses. That meant their children didn’t receive the same counselling.

At Can Praxsis facility near Rocky Mountain House ( taken in 2017)

‘PTSD IS A FAMILY AFFAIR’

That is set to change, after the federal government made a $460,000 grant to Can Praxis. The money comes from the federal Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund. Can Praxis founder Steve Critchley said it will allow the agency to expand its programs to assist the entire family of veterans dealing with the effects of PTSD.

“PTSD is a family affair. It affects the whole family. And the challenge we have is mental health now becomes a multi-generational family issue. And we’ve decided that’s not good enough. The funding for this new program is going to shake things up in the therapy world and how we approach mental health within families,” said Critchley.

“For the next three years, we’ll be running as many family programs as we can for our veteran families. From right across Canada, all costs are covered, including flights, hotels, meals, rental cars.”

Armstrong, who credits Can Praxis with saving her marriage, said the move to start helping the children of military families is both important and overdue.

“It is so important, because kids who grow up with parents who are dysregulated because of PTSD go through so much. Living with that kind of stress in the home is not good for them. For them to have the kind of opportunity that we’ve had is… I don’t even have words for how important that is.”

SUFFERING PTSD

The Canadian Armed forces said that in a survey of regular force veterans released from service between 1998-2015 16.4 per cent reported suffering PTSD.

Can Praxis was founded in 2013 to assist veterans and first responders deal with Operational Stress Injury (OSI) such as PTSD. It operates three programs out of a facility in central Alberta near Rocky Mountain House, and has expanded to a centre at WindReach farms in Whitby Ontario.

On July 15th this year Calgary -based Ken Borel Air will hold its annual charity golf tournament. This year all proceeds will go toward funding Can Praxis programs.

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