During a Thanksgiving dinner in 2015, Veterans Connect Canada (VCC) was born. The idea was, and still is, for veterans to help other veterans who are struggling with PTSI, OSI’s and other mental health issues, through the power of storytelling.
“We’ve been using story telling of veterans in recovery to reach out to those who haven’t gone into recovery yet,” said Bruce Thomson, president and co-founder of VCC and a 20-year veteran.
Shawna Hickerson, co-founder, added, “The interviews are pretty honest, intimate and we’re focused on creating an atmosphere for each experience and each person is valued. We’re really looking across the board at all mental health issues, we don’t focus particularly on PTSI.”
VCC is the brainchild of Thomson, Hickerson, Gerard Cheong and Lisa McLeod. Thomson feels the rate of suicides among veterans is alarmingly high and together with his co-founders, are working towards the education and prevention of veteran suicide.
“It took us a few months to get some traction and we really started steaming ahead about six to eight months ago,” said Hickerson.
The organization officially became not-for-profit a year ago and up to this point, VCC has been completely self-funded. However, there has been talk amongst the group about fundraising ideas to help further fund the organization.
“When we do raise the money, that money will go towards producing more video because it is a costly endeavour to actually get video shot, somewhere in the vicinity of $1,000 a minute for a finished product,” said Thomson.
Down the road, Thomson said, along with the videos, they would also like to put together some course material for veterans who are contemplating suicide as an option.
“Some of the money will go into the research and development of a course for veterans suffering from, not only PTSI, but OSI, depression and any other mental illness, to steer them away from suicide as much as possible,” he added.
While PTSI is a serious issue and sometimes a contributing factor to suicide, Hickerson said it is important to note that depression is a major contributor.
“Roughly 80 per cent of those with depression can get better with appropriate treatment, including counselling, so, we really like to focus on stories of recovery and hope in that realm,” she added.
For more information on Veterans Connect Canada or to check out some veterans’ stories of recovery, please visit www.veteransconnect.ca.