The Hero’s Call
* Taking registration for 2022 pending Covid-19 restrictions
Badge of Life Canada recognizes that during the course of one’s Public Service 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. Male participants will be provided an opportunity to allow themselves to be themselves within a group of similarly diagnosed male 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?”
“Will you answer the call?”
“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 male 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…
“Too not belong anywhere, is a feeling I have had for 2 1/2 years. To feel like a burden on loved ones and to have no value in my life or my families was a lot to bear. Feeling alone and that no one understood me or the nightmares, flashbacks, triggers or severe depression only amplified my anger and mood swings. I was contacted out of the blue by Bill Rusk. He assured me I would be safe and would learn a lot from a weekend with himself, Lynne and other participants. He was right on point. To learn the steps of PTSD, the emotions that we all go through and how to control ourselves. Eating healthy, listening to passed participants about there experience. Maintaining fitness of the mind and body. The beauty of nature and all that the wold still has in store for us. We do have self worth. We are not a burden and we are loved.”
~Philip Sheldon, participant 2018
“What this past week has provided me was a means, experience to help identify why I was still “on shift, on call”. I never realized that even though not in uniform I was still behaving and living (if you can call it that) like I was ready to respond. With your guidance, mentorship, compassion and deep understanding of the walk- I was able to heal, grieve, face my fears and overcome. At last, I can now truly go home and end my shift. I am trembling with anticipation and joy. I finally get to see and expereince my family again. It has been a long, exhausting painful wait. With deepest gratitude and long lasting respect.”
~W.P. participant 2019
“I’ve been lucky to have lots of training, courses, retreats, rehabilitation etc. over my life, but this puts ODIS’s, PTSD etc. into one nice package. The organizers and facilitators have an intimate knowledge of and a passion for what people who are going through and really want to help. They are doing a great service to all.” ~ participant 2019
“Before I arrived I was scared and had very high anxiety. After struggling with PTSD including previous alcohol addiction and suicide, I was sure recovery in any part would never really happen. Through the programming and people who travelled the week long journey has actually given me hop with goals moving forward. More that I could have ever asked for.” ~ Steve Smiley Ferlatte, participant 2019
“Badge of Life Canada was an amazing journey of self recognition with like minded people. I thank my new friends for allowing me to be a part of the “Badge of Life family”.”
~ T.C. participant 2019
“This program has exceeded my expectations in astronomical ways. It has fulfilled a huge void in my internal soul. My anger has been replaced with happiness, my loneliness has been replaced with true friendship. I have had exceptional spiritual awakenings. I have felt a sense of belonging. The love, kindness and understanding I have felt can never be described in words. The facilitators in this program are my true Heros. And in all honesty I feel that I have been taken out of the extreme darkness at which point I had no desire to live life anymore to having hope and a purpose in life and for that I am extremely grateful.”
~David Knoll, participant 2019
“I am a son, brother, husband, father and a police officer in the Niagara Region. Although I usually type police officer first, I have learned that I am human, I am loved, and I have value within my community and outside of the confines of the First Responder world.
On July 5, 2015, I was involved in a workplace accident that left me hospitalized for many months and in the care of my wife for many years after. Requiring many surgeries and learning how to walk again and use my hands, I thought my life was over. I refused to give up and I soon realized that the physical wounds heal much quicker, than the mental scars that I developed. Afraid of being judged, and of the stigma attached, I kept my feelings and thoughts to myself. Thinking that they would go away on their own, I quickly became extremely angry at everyone and everything. I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD. Trying to push my family and friends away by lashing out at them all, I hated myself and thought the world was better off without me.
After about a year, I told my wife, Tanya, what was really going on in my head. I knew should leave me as soon as I did, and I prepared for that. What really happened was amazing and a life changer. She listened to me. We came up with a plan to get assistance, but we did not know where to turn. Work wasn’t helping, my family thought it was made up and attention seeking, and no one talked about mental illness unless you wanted to be labelled crazy and sent to the hospital to live.
My wife found Badge of Life Canada. At first, I refused to go as I was afraid of the unknown and scared of my own shadow. I eventually came to terms that it was my last chance at life. Although I never contemplated suicide, I now know why people do. It is the feeling of being a burden to others. To feel like you don’t belong, and everyone is out to hurt you. To want to put a stop to the voices in your head and the never-ending thoughts that haunt you and don’t allow you to sleep or relax for even a minute.
My wife, Tanya drove me to Lions Head, Ontario to meet Bill and Lynne Rusk. Petrified I agreed to stay for the weekend and try to retain anything they were willing to teach me. After 3 days of intense class work and team building exercises, I for the first time, realized that everything I was going through and thinking was not unique to me. That there are many others who struggle everyday with an abnormal life. That I can be happy again and return to work one day. That I am not a burden to anyone, and I hold tremendous value.
We all have different stories to tell and different accidents to get us where we were, but the cycle of mental illness is the same for all of us. We are just at different stages of it. Whether we go through quickly or we must pace ourselves and stumble along the way, it is all a great learning curve.
I was fortunate enough to have been invited back this year, for the week-long course called The Hero’s Journey. It was the best week of my life. To know that you don’t have to schedule your days around your medications, to get back control of our lives, to laugh and share funny and sad stories with one another, to be vulnerable in front of strangers and know that you are not being judged, is something that money cannot buy. Bill and Lynne and the mentors (Sheppard’s) do not hold back. They join in and share their stories and become vulnerable along with you. For this very reason, this program works better than any others. No one sticks out and everyone learns the tools necessary to take back home with them and start to lead a great life once again. Bill and Lynne do not try to fool you by saying they can heal PTSD or that they are some great faith healers. They are real people, who just want to help. They provide you with knowledge and insight for you to start your journey of healing.
For whoever is reading this, please take the time to consider this extremely beneficial in healing, or the start of, and money very well spent. I have researched and attended other retreats for PTSD, since the first time at BOLC and they do not compare. When you double that up with the fact, that BOLC is completely run by volunteers that truly care about your well being and not the profit margins, as there isn’t any, it is a win/win situation.
I am now back at school fulltime at Brock University, studying Psychology. Bill and Lynne have inspired me to give back to the profession in a way, that I never thought was possible.
I have been advised by WSIB and NRPS that I will be going back to the Niagara Regional Police Service, working in the Wellness Unit, to ensure the safety and mental well being of all its members. This is something that I was told would never be possible again. I can say that I owe it all to them, buy their modesty would just say that I am doing it on my own, and they are just providing tools to guide me. Another reason why I love them so much. Thank you”.
~PC Phil Sheldon S.C. – participant 2019
Refuse to Lose PTSD is a not-for-profit organization that works in conjunction with Badge of Life Canada. 100% charitable proceeds applied to assist with Mission & Programs to assist ALL first responders dealing with psychological injuries diagnosed from service.
For more information or to apply for this program