When Chris Linford was first diagnosed with PTSD in 2004, he was convinced that his invisible injury was his problem and not one that impacted his family.
It wasn’t until much later did he realize his condition did impact his wife, his marriage, and his three children.
That realization was what set Linford on a road that recently saw him in Sooke to deliver the 36th session of the COPE program–a program he pioneered with the help of his wife Kathryn and a team of clinical professionals.
COPE stands for Couples Overcoming PTSD Everyday and it operates under the umbrella of Wounded Warriors Canada to deliver much-needed help to couples and family members who are suffering from the effects of PTSD.
“People were looking for help on an individual basis but we’ve found that we get a lot more success when we treat these individuals with their families together,” said Scott Maxwell, the executive director of Wounded Warriors Canada.
“We are treating people with this injury alongside their spouses, recognizing that this isn’t an individual injury. It has downstream effects.”
As the founder of the program, Linford and his wife have also served as national ambassadors for Wounded Warriors Canada and have been tireless advocates for those suffering from PTSD.
“I would suggest that the appetite to understand (PTSD) has improved vastly since I started advocating for the victims of the condition,” Linford said.
“When I started we just didn’t know what we didn’t know and the whole situation was pretty poorly managed. Now there is a much better understanding of PTSD and its effects on those suffering from the condition as well as those around that person.”
And make no mistake about it, Linford has earned the right to expound on PTSD. He was diagnosed with the condition after a military career that saw him serve in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide and in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010.
“I paid the price of admission, I guess you could say. But it’s important that people who come to our sessions understand that I’ve walked the walk … bought the T-shirt. My wife and I do understand,” he said.
The COPE program is available, not only to military veterans, but to first responders and volunteer search and rescue members.
The sessions are intensive affairs that are delivered in two phases.
The first phase sees couples spend five and a half days under the direction and care of two trauma psychologists. They are guided through a series of exercises designed to teach them how to successfully manage PTSD.
The second phase turns the couples over to a certified family coach who will follow up with the couple by telephone for six months after the completion of the program.
While the program has received rave reviews, Linford said that a great deal of work remains to be done in raising awareness in the community.
“I still run across people who have only a cursory understanding of PTSD. It isn’t just military personnel who suffer from the injury. It affects first responders and others like the RCMSAR crews, as well as many others who have fallen through the cracks.”
What is PTSD?
Frightening and traumatic situations happen to everyone at some point in life and, although people react in different ways, the reactions fade over time and people go back to their normal lives.
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is not like that. It develops as a reaction to a single traumatic event or as the culmination of a long term exposure to trauma.
Those who suffer from PTSD are, in fact, suffering from an invisible injury with lasting effects that can make them feel “on edge” all the time.
They can startle easily, have trouble sleeping, or have trouble concentrating. Some PTSD victims may feel like something terrible is about to happen and others can feel numb and detached.
PTSD has been linked to family breakdowns, alcohol or drug abuse as victims try to self medicate. Too often, it has led to suicide.
More information on PTSD is available at woundedwarriors.ca.