By MARCIA DUBSKY
The Royal Canadian Legion Todmorden Branch 10 held its eighth annual Heroes of Suicide Memorial March and Candlelight Service recently.
The ceremony on the evening of Sunday, Sept. 24, was held to honour the veterans and first responders who have died of suicide due to post traumatic stress disorder issues (PTSD). It included a moment of silence to the victims, prayer and a candlelight service.
According to P.J. O’Neill, president of Todmorden Branch 10, veterans and first responders have to deal with tragic and stressful situations beyond the imagination of most people.
“They can walk down the street and look just like you and I. But you don’t know what’s inside, how they suffer. This is why we need to be more educated to help them,” O’Neill told Beach Metro Community News.
A way to create more awareness for members of the public is through the media, he said.
“Talk more about it in the media. There are so many issues in today’s world right now and having those lines open for communication is always important,” said O’Neill.
According to Toronto-Danforth MP Julie Dabrusin, who attended the memorial, the community needs to do more on the issue of PTSD.
“We need to always think about our injured soldiers who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and other issues related to their service. This is unique, and we are doing it right here in East York,” Dabrusin said of the Todmorden Legion event.
According to Dabrusin, a big part of the Heroes of Suicide event is to break the stigma sometimes attached to PTSD by having the Royal Canadian Legion recognizing the service of people who have had post traumatic stress disorder or have committed suicide. The event also helps support the families of those impacted by PTSD
“Reach out for services,” said Dabrusin. “There are services that are there for you and know that we are so proud of all of the people who have given so much of themselves to protect our country and that when you see an event like this, you know that people are standing up for you.”
According to a National Defence report, suicides among Canadian Armed Forces between 1995 and 2019 were more than 240.
David Pottinger, a member of HMCS York Naval Reserve, said he attended the march and service to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Naval Reserve in Canada by honouring the fallen soldiers, sailors, merchants and first responders who have passed away due to PTSD.
“To be here today is to give a voice to those people who no longer are able to speak for themselves,” said Pottinger.
Irene Paleo, a member of the community who was in the military for six years, said the march is a way of raising awareness.
“I think things like this march, with the veterans, the police officers and the community coming out, shows people that we are aware of what’s happening. That we are aware and we need to be,” said Paleo.
A TTC Honour Guard took part of the march. According to Nireen Qureshi, a TTC manager, the community as a whole need to know more about PTSD.
“As a community in general, we have to advertise more so that way it’s known in the media for anyone living in that area or any community,” said Qureshi.
O’Neill said community awareness is very important as it puts the spotlight on the issue of PTSD..
“Don’t let it hide in the dark shadows. This is what happens when it hides in the dark shadows. We end up with ceremonies like this,” he said.