BY BILL PHILLIPS
Kelsi Sheren know firsthand what she’s talking about when it comes to post traumatic stress disorder.
Sheren was a gunner in the Canadian Armed Forces. She served for four years and was injured on her first tour in Afghanistan in 2009. She worked with the Canadian Royal Artillery based out of Valcartier, Quebec and while overseas, was tasked to the Third Scot Battalion in Afghanistan, which was where she was injured. She suffered PTSD as a result of that injury. She returned to Canada and was medically discharged from the Armed Forces in 2011.
She now helps the Honour House Society in New Westminster as it branches out across the province.
“I’ve been out now long enough that I’m finally starting to find my way back into society and Honour House has been a huge part of that,” she says.
Honour House is a facility where veterans, first responders and their families can stay while they are getting help for PTSD.
“They are amazing because they do so much for people who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder,” says Sheren.
And there soon will be a Prince George connection to Honour House. The Honour House Society is creating a refuge and place of calm for veterans, first responders and their families as they recover from PTSD on a sprawling, riverside property in Kamloops. Honour House President Al De Genova and New Westminster Fire Chief Tim Armstrong recently issued a challenge to military and first responders across Canada to come together to build cabins in their own communities, which will then be transported to Kamloops to accommodate guests. And Prince George rose to the challenge and will be building a cabin for the Kamloops Honour House.
“It’s absolutely massive,” Sheren says of the importance places like Honour House. “I don’t think people understand the scope of what it’s like to come with PTSD. Not only that, but to come home to a family that doesn’t understand either. Honour House does a really good job of integrating the family into the process of healing.”
The new cabins are essential, she says, because people with PTSD often don’t feel comfortable around other people and the cabins provide some of that privacy.
“These facilities are really life savers,” she says. “These places help before they fall through the cracks, before they become homeless, before they decide suicide is the only way out. The foundation, in what they’re doing, is stopping this before it even happens.”
Stays at Honour House depends on the individual and the injury. A stay can be a couple of days or a couple of months.
“They’re not going to kick you out, they’re going to help you,” she says. “They’re giving them a place to go where they can feel safe.”
Prince George will break ground on the first cabin for Honour Ranch today at 2 p.m. at the downtown firehall.
Mayor Lyn Hall, Honour House Society president and Honorary Colonel Allan De Genova, Commanding Officer Normand Dionne and soldiers from the Rocky Mountain Rangers, MP Todd Doherty, Prince George Fire Chief John Iverson, local firefighters and paramedics, RCMP, families of the fallen and other dignitaries and local supporters are scheduled to be in attendance.
“I wouldn’t consider Honour House as a last resort, it’s more of a first resort,” says Sheren, adding it’s important to catch soldiers when they first get home, rather than five years later.
“That’s what Honour House is doing, they’re stopping it before it starts,” she says. “That’s really, really important.”