Retreat for people living with PTSD finds permanent home near Prince Albert

A peer support facility for people struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or operational stress injuries has found a permanent home in the countryside near Prince Albert.

“We’re just excited for the future,” said River Valley Resilience Retreat board member and firefighter Jeff Reeder.

River Valley Resilience Retreat (RVRR) purchased a 25-acre property in the RM of Prince Albert. The 30-year-old acreage includes a three-bedroom house, a bunkhouse and a shop.

The deal received approval from the rural municipality and neighbouring residents in April. RVRR is now renovating the property. The location will not be disclosed publically to help clients maintain privacy.

In the coming weeks the retreat will host day camps for groups of 12 on the property and eventually will rent out space to clients for overnight stays and group retreats, says Reeder.

“We can tailor a plan to meet everyone’s needs and it’s on a referral and contract basis to bring in the professionals that are needed.”

With eight correctional facilities in the area, Reeder says Prince Albert has a high number of people in need of help. Correction workers are among the occupations often affected by PTSD and mental health issues due to their work environment, he says.

“We’re here as a support network for people going through traditional counselling and stuff we’re here to support them in between those sessions,” said Reeder.

While RVRR is open to anyone suffering from PTSD, however, it is primarily focused on helping first responders such as police, firefighters, paramedics, soldiers and medical staff.

PEER SUPPORT

Jason Tremblay has worked as a corrections officer and volunteer firefighter.

“I’ve personally had a failed marriage from struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Tremblay.

He attends group sessions every Sunday and says the peer support has helped him and his family.

“When you share your story, you learn you’re not alone and for years I thought that I was alone,” said Tremblay.

He says he can reach out at any time to RVRR for support and that he’s known other people who haven’t been as fortunate.

“I’ve seen lots of friends not reach out and to get help when they needed it and I’ve lost many, many colleagues to suicide,” said Tremblay.

He says he’s looking forward to getting the new property up and running.

“It’s given me, my wife, my children a place to come and just relax….we’ve made good friends through some of the programs they offer.”

Jason’s spouse, Kalli Tremblay is a paramedic and says she’s been off work for almost three years because of PTSD.

She’s taken part in peer support sessions, weekend retreats and equine therapy with her step-daughter. She says she’s gone out to the (former) site and learned more about PTSD and how to support each other more as a couple and as a family.

“I can confidently say because of RVRR and meeting Michelle I’m here, I’m still alive,” said Kalli Tremblay.

“Through RVRR I’ve got the support I’ve needed, I’ve met the right people. I finally accepted the help that I needed and now we have a newborn baby.”

She says she’s been diagnosed with PTSD but her symptoms and triggers are specific to her.

“Being a paramedic, when you walk into a busy place I feel responsible medically for everyone around me,” she said.

“So this is needed and I think if I had known about these types of programs and specifically RVRR before all of that, I don’t think I would have gone down the dark path that I’ve gone down.”

She’s encountered stigma around PTSD and has seen other people label those who come forward as "weak."

“I think a lot of people are suffering in silence and getting this out there will show people that they’re not alone. They’re not crazy.”