* Taking registration for 2022 pending Covid-19 restrictions
Badge of Life Canada recognizes that during the course of one’s Public Safety personnel career, they will be exposed to various levels of trauma which can lead to diagnosis of Operational Stress Injuries (OSI); including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), along with co-morbid diagnosis, including, but not limited to depression, anxiety, anger, hyper-vigilance, guilt, shame, fear, as well as maladaptive behaviours, and suicide ideation.
Most, if not all, participants are or have been under the care of a medical professional. Our Program will not endeavour to replace this type of clinical care for any attending participants – but rather augment such care within a benevolent peer support environment.
Each program we host attracts a cross-section of attendees from Canadian Public Safety personnel. Female participants will be provided an opportunity to allow themselves to be themselves within a group of similarly diagnosed female participants without having to justify their own “journey”. We work hard to connect participants with other like minded participants so they don’t feel alone while experiencing that they are supported by the community they have dedicated serving throughout their careers.
The focus of each program will be on psychoeducation within a peer support structure, under the guidance of a licensed mental health professional, as well as member(s) with lived experience, modeling positive post-traumatic growth while involved with group activities practiced within a safe environment. It can be a challenge to know what brings meaning and purpose to us after a traumatic event. As a group, with no fear of judgement from others, we connect to our values and open up to our feelings and thoughts.
This is an important step for those with anxiety and depression. Participants achieve a sense of possibility, play and contribution within the group. As a group we will learn some activities that connect us to our values and that can be continued after the program to develop presence in the moment and in life. Participants learn that there is importance in creating things and doing things including doing for others as random acts of kindness. Through peer connection we can develop presence of self and figure out what we really want in life and how to connect with others. We can find the joy of connecting with others and doing with and for others creating some desire in our lives.
“Are you ready to move forward?”
“If you are not prepared to invest in yourself…then who else will invest in you?”
At Badge of Life Canada we understand firsthand what it is like to cope with psychological trauma. We come from lived experience so we can empathize with the feeling of isolation and lack of trust that can accompany such issues. We also understand the dynamics that this can present both in the workplace and at home. It is what drives us to press forward and help those in need, and it is what makes us unique. Programs are facilitated by a combination of mental health professionals, chaplains, and positive-lived experience individuals all set within a peer-support environment.
Resilience building, coping skills, and learning new normals transform participants journey during their stay.
- We endeavour to create an emotionally and physically safe environment for all participants while exploring the affects of single and cumulative trauma events upon the mind, body, and spirit.
- Using meditation, mindfulness and yoga, along with nourishing meals that members often have gone away from, we create a healthy environment that promotes further learning and healing activities.
- Utilizing team activities that promote trust within the peer-support environment practiced in a safe environment that develops and enhances self-reflection, communication skills, and promotes healthy boundaries along with a transformation in purpose and a sense of belonging within a group of peers. (#FindYourTribe) Pending weather some team activities that are undertaken include: equine assisted learning, high ropes courses, labyrinth and hiking trails along the picturesque shores of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron.
- Participants explore their personal experiences through peer group discussions and personal narratives regarding spiritual wounding and loss of personal identity revolving around various topics including, but not limited to moral injury, sanctuary trauma, perceived injustice along with perceived feelings of abandonment and administration betrayal by their individual organizations.
- Participants actively engage in First Nations teachings and story-telling, all conducted in a fire-side setting that transcends spiritual awakening and personal transformation within each person’s own spiritual comfort zone. The teachings end with a ceremonial cleansing of your spirit through ancient smudging practices within the peer-group setting.
If you are a female first responder, either active or retired, and believe that this particular Program would be of benefit to you please take a moment to complete the registration form.
Our Program registration is on a first come / first served basis – so please register as soon as possible with the link at the bottom of this page.
Your application will be pre-screened and you will be contacted by a member of Badge of Life Canada, along with a medical professional to access your placement into the Program.
- No alcohol/non-prescriptions drugs/weapons are permitted during the weekend retreat – this is non-negotiable – any participant not able to comply will be removed from the Program.
- We endeavour to provide a safe environment where participants can share freely within a peer-led environment. Badge of Life Canada reserves the right to exclude any participant prior to commencement of the program and/or remove any individual(s) whose behaviour, comments and/or actions are deemed inappropriate to the safety, security and mental well-being of the participants.
Invest In Yourself
What therapists are saying…
“I was honoured to be part of the S.O.L.E. Sisters retreat. As a therapist, I was witness to seeing female first responders who suffer from operational stress injury come together and begin healing. This healing began as the group introduced themselves and experienced activities such as First Nations opening ceremonies which included smudging. Participants explored personal growth during the nature walk and interaction with the horses. They let go and expressed themselves during Zumba dance and African drumming. They shared their journey with everyone during the homemade meals and Rock Mandala painting.
As a therapist, my role was very limited to sharing stories and supporting the women through their journeys. The retreat itself was very well organized and thought out. Each experience built on the last activity. The homemade meals where a fantastic touch. Bonding and supporting during this time was inevitable. It was such an honour to be part of this wonderful weekend.”
~Michele Brett, MSW, RSW, Central Ontario Psychology
What participants are saying…
“My weekend with Sole Sistas allowed me to relax in a safe environment. I was able to be myself and I did not feel judged, in fact I felt supported. I was relaxed knowing I could be quiet or speak. There was no peer pressure.
The atmosphere was positive. The air was fresh and I was surrounded by nature. The weekend had a balance of activities, down time, group and individual activities. There was plenty of healthy food, comfort food and treats.
I learned useful tips from listening to others who were walking the same path. I left well grounded and definitely a step forward in my recovery knowing I was not alone in this journey.”
~Christine Lemieux, participant 2017
“I discovered Badge of Life Canada at a time when I was feeling very lost, conflicted and lonely in my place in this world and in my role as a first responder. BOLC has connected me with peers and mentors who have and continue to guide me on my journey.
I attended the one week women’s program in May. It was my second program with Badge of Life Canada, first being a weekend program, Sole Sistas, in Oct 2018. Although it was a different group of ladies, I was less nervous and very excited about taking part in the week long May program, because I knew that it would be a safe, welcoming and healing environment. That being said, it was not an easy week. I pushed myself physically, mentally and emotionally in group and individual activities and exercises. I experienced emotions I had never felt comfortable exploring before. I took the time to put myself first and take care of ME, BOLC made it safe and possible for me to do this. I have taken what I learned and have tried very hard to implement that into my life after leaving the week session. I continue to have contact with the connections I have made through BOLC.
I know that Lynne, Bill and all affiliated with Badge of Life Canada will always be in my life. I will support them and promote their compassion and experience. I will continue to donate time and funds the best I can for this amazing organization that works so tirelessly for first responders and their families.”
~A.L., participant 2018 and 2019
“In January 2018, I was diagnosed with Vicarious PTSD. This is something that I never heard of and did not know that someone could get. My husband was involved in a workplace accident years previous and I was his sole caregiver. We learned that nursing him get back to health and being around him 24/7, dealing with trauma, that I too lived the same trauma as him. There are other parts of my life that have helped lead to this diagnosis, but it turned out that as he got better and less reliant on me, my body started to shut down. My bucket was overflowing.
Researching ways to help my husband years previous, we became very well acquainted with and friends with Bill and Lynne Rusk from Badge of Life Canada. They helped us so much and were so instrumental in my husbands healing that we knew their program starts the healing process. They have always remained close to us and our hearts, and last month they offered for myself to go on a weeklong journey to help me in my healing process. Being able to speak freely among people, knowing that I was not the only one suffering, makes it easier to cope with learning different strategies. Being able to “be myself” and put away the different “masks” for a week, was a huge stress relief. Learning coping mechanisms that we know firsthand work, and not having the negative stress from everyday life for the week, really assisted in my future of self care. Eating healthy, partaking in team building exercises, yoga and meditation and laughing again, all while just feeling like my “old self”, really changes your entire life.
I know that it was just the beginning and I am aware that I have a lot of work to do in the future as this is a life long journey that we are on now, but I am extremely confident that without BOLC, I would sink deeper and deeper into depression and perhaps lose my family because of it.
I cannot thank BOLC enough for what they have done for us. They have opened their hearts and their doors to me and I amforever in their debt for it. We have fundraised in the past for the local hospital and Wounded Warriors Canada but now we are concentrating solely on BOLC. We have seen what it can do for us and we know that it helps so many others. Being depressed and not thinking straight, we forget about self care and most of us do not want to invest in it at that point in our lives. We feel that all we need is a vacation for a week or a shopping spree. Only to come home and continue the vicious circle again. No closer to healing ourselves.
Please consider assisting BOLC with crucial funding to help all of those who help complete strangers everyday. Yes, it is their job (first responders), one might say, but it is not their life. They have families, friends and lives outside of work. They just need some helping hands to show them the way. Thank you.”
Tanya, participant 2019
“Thank you for welcoming me to both the 3 and 6 day programs. Your dedication is inspiring and healing. Awareness of my heartbeat during the rope course, crossfit and drumming to listening to my heart with the horses, sitting by the waves and surrounded by compassionate people, such a well rounded labyrinth of life changing experiences. It is extremely healing to get away and focus on self care, awareness and willingness surrounded by support and acceptance.
Your work is so meaningful and you have made a huge impact on my life. I think of you when I read Mahatma Gandhi’s quote:
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
With deep gratitude, Helen – participant 2019
For more information or to apply for this program