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Sea to Sea for PTSD

Chad Kennedy is a CAF veteran who founded Sea to Sea for PTSD. – Submited photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

WEST COAST – Sea to Sea for PTSD is a nonprofit organization that aims to break the stigma of PTSD within the public safety and military communities. Chad Kennedy, the man behind the mission, is a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) veteran who has been involved with law enforcement since 2004. He was diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety in 2018. “It came to light on August 2, 2020, when I had planned to die by suicide and, thankfully, my good friend Captain Morgan persuaded me to make the drunk decision to walk the country to raise awareness of PTSD. So I just held myself accountable and made it happen, obviously, with a big team behind me,” said Kennedy. “It’s just trying to give other people hope and persuade them to give life a second chance before the suicide thing.” The organization currently has over 3,800 followers on Facebook, where stories and experiences are regularly shared. “It’s been a long struggle to get that many followers, but every day we pick up another one or two,” said Kennedy. “I think when I look at the actual engagements, it’s like every month we’re reaching 60,000 to 70,000 people and scattered over eleven countries. So it’s kind of cool. It was just one of those, I call it an irrational decision that turned into the best decision of my life, and we’ve been able to help others just by giving them hope.” The coast to coast walk that Kennedy has undertaken since the inception of the organization comes with many challenges, but also offers beautiful experiences. “Last year we did from Cranbrook, British Columbia, and made it to Montreal, and due to a team member who needed surgery back in British Columbia, we took a break. This year, June 2, we kicked off just outside of Quebec City and made our way to St. John’s,” said Kennedy. “Because of timelines, we had to drive from Port aux Basques to Gander and then made our way to St. John’s, but there’s a good side to that because there were people that were questioning why we didn’t go through certain communities, so it was in Gander that I announced that we’d do the walk again in 2025, stepping off in St. John’s, Newfoundland and making our way all the way back to Port aux Basques and then make our way to Vancouver.” Kennedy never imagined that this movement would grow as exponentially as it has. “I thought it was going to be a once in a lifetime thing, and I saw the positivity that it had and the people that have reached out to say that the walk has inspired them, and I figured when you try and find your purpose again in life after leaving a uniform, you think, why not? Let’s be positive. Let’s change. Let’s get some more conversation going surrounding mental health.” While mental health is important in every community, and through all walks of life, Kennedy sees increased difficulties for veterans. “Our veterans and a lot of the military folks are really starting to stand up and speak out about post-traumatic stress and operational stress injuries. A lot of our public safety professionals, our first responders, are still afraid to speak about mental health in the workplace because of the stigma,” said Kennedy. “People are afraid of losing their careers. They’re afraid of being considered weak or not being able to be promoted versus asking for help. I guess they fester with their struggles. A lot of them end up losing their families. They find self-medication a thing to do, whether it’s hard narcotics or alcohol. It’s a really dark path and until we start finding the right leaders within our organizations that truly are passionate about mental health, we’re going to be at a standstill.” Sea to Sea for PTSD has a dedicated team to help. “I’ve got my good friend Rick Chorney, who drives my safety truck behind me at all times, and I’ve got our logistics lady, Lisa, who pops up from time to time and does some walking with us and helps set things up accommodation-wise and obviously has planned the whole route for us, and then behind the scenes we’ve got my amazing board of directors,” said Kennedy. “The reality is, it’s people donating that help keep the campaign going when the official walking is done. I would hope in 2026, all the profits we make will go back into volunteer services that help our first responders and our military folks. For example, crisis lines that are fully staffed by either current or retired first responders or military personnel, something that’s actually starting to grow across the country, and in the meantime, as soon as I get back to Alberta, myself and the board are going to start working on the application process for charity status, so we’re blanketed right across the country.” To get the walk prepared involves a lot of hard work. “I think Lisa started planning the route, probably September or October of 2022, we got to put it all to the test. For the most part, it’s pretty easy until we hit Quebec, and we cannot walk on the Trans Canada Highway there, so that threw some challenges at us. I think with next year, for 2025, most of the logistics will be planned out with a few changes so we hit some different communities. I’d like to take credit for it, but it was all Lisa.” Along with pictures, videos, and shared experiences on the Facebook page is a shop where people can go and buy their merchandise. “It’s a third party store and something we’re trying to revamp as it’s out of a shop in the States,” said Kennedy. “So another thing we’re doing once I get home is making a Canadian store, so our supporters aren’t being stung with duties on whatever comes across the border, and to keep things simple, we had to do the third party thing. I’ve always got some merchandise packed in the truck with me wherever I go.” Kennedy believes that when it comes to sharing his own experiences, the bad is just as important as the good. “I found in my own challenges with post-traumatic stress, I was always looking for someone who could relate to what I’m going through. I’d always find the positive stories and those of us that have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress know that not everything is positive. So I thought it was very important to be fully transparent with people,” said Kennedy. “There’s a lot of positives and then there are a lot of challenges. There’s a lot of dark days I go through, but it’s real. I’m not going to continuously blow positive quotes at everybody so they assume that my life is okay and I’m fixed. I’ve got a long way to go in my healing journey, so I’m just very open about it and just in the hopes of inspiring somebody to be able to ask for help.” Getting help and raising awareness are at the forefront of what Sea to Sea for PTSD does. “Let’s look at natural disasters. Let’s look at everything that we as society goes through. I think it’s very easy to find a dark space when the world is not being kind to us. We’ve seen it with so many topics during COVID where anything political became very negative, and I think that in itself creates barriers amongst human beings, and you throw mental health into the mix. I don’t know. To me, it’s as easy to strike a conversation up about mental health like it is for young people to talk about video gaming or for other people to talk about sports,” said Kennedy. “It’s a thing that stumps me, and I know from being both a veteran and a first responder that the public always expects us to be strong and healthy and respond to calls for service, and quite often we’re not 100 per cent in the game because of our mental health, and it reverts right back to we’re afraid to speak about it. I believe our agencies are afraid to be open about mental health because they figure they’re going to lose trust in the public, where I think – just my personal thought – if we are more open with the public, you would have more compassion from the public, more understanding.”

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