Rally Point Retreat helps those with PTSD
Dealing with traumatic events can take a toll on the mind and the body, but traditional medicine isn't always enough to help patients with PTSD.
That was the inspiration for Rally Point Retreat, a getaway where people can truly be themselves.
“I would go two, three days in a row without eating; two, three days in a row without sleeping.” said Robert Mancini, a former EHS paramedic who is now a firefighter.
Mancini was a paramedic dispatcher for 20 years.
“I always thought myself above PTSD,” he said. “I thought that I could deal with things, that it wouldn't affect me. I was wrong.”
Last December, Mancini hit what he calls his “rock bottom” when he couldn't shake the 911 calls from suicide attempts.
“The callers are hysterical, angry, yelling, and screaming,” he said. “A scene of total panic and chaos over the phone, and that's something I have to work through and try to provide instructions until the ambulance arrives.”
He cycled through PTSD symptoms until he came to Rally Point Retreat on Nova Scotia's South Shore.
At first glance, it just looks like a ranch house, but it's so much more: a woodshop, where Rally Point Retreat owner Bob Grundy helps people make small projects.
There’s a music stage, a games room, a small movie theatre, even a library.
All of this is from Bob's pension and donations from the community.
A 34-year air force vet, Grundy knows about the toll of PTSD first hand.
“There are parts of it that come up quite regularly through word triggers, scent triggers, visual triggers,” he said.
So Bob and his wife, Johan, opened up their home.
For Mandy Smith, a former police officer, this is a refuge.
“Some of it is social interactions,” Smith said. “Some of it is just constantly battling fight or flight reaction.”
Smith has trouble in social situations, and can get overwhelmed. Sometimes just talking with Johan can help
“I still don't know what my future holds for me,” Smith said. “So it gives me the feeling that I'm still part of something.”
That sense of community is starting to grow across the country.
This summer, a group of veterans came to make a donation, and help expand the program.
But with suicide rates rising among veterans, it's hard to celebrate.
“My focus is usually on how many we didn't help,” Grundy said.
But they have helped, starting with the people quoted in this story.
“It just lets you know that you're not alone,” Mancini said.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Emily Baron Cadloff.