The Carillon - ONLINE EDITION
By: Dave Baxter
Posted: 06/19/2018 3:25 PM
A local man who has spent many years suffering with his own thoughts and fighting his own demons is now inviting others who may be suffering to come together, because he wants them to know they are not alone.
Lou Savard of Kleefeld spent 25 years as a police officer and before that spent seven years as an army medic.
The 62-year-old said many of the things he dealt with and he witnessed in both professions led to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) about 14 years ago.
"I started as a military medic, and as a medic I saw some really ugly things," Savard said. "You see some horrible injuries, you see some deaths and it sticks with you."
Over his 25 years as a police officer Savard also dealt with situations that stayed with him long after those situations were over.
"There are some horrific things," Savard said. "There are injuries and accidents, but also some really horrible things you see going to calls where families and especially where young children are involved."
Savard said he describes all the thoughts that ran through his head for many years as being like books on a bookshelf with more and more books being put on the shelf over time.
"It keeps accumulating, everything you see accumulates and it gets put into the subconscious," he said. "Bad stuff keeps getting put on the bookshelf and for me one day there was a situation where I was assaulted and another book was put on the shelf and the shelf collapsed."
Savard said what followed has been years of symptoms including anxiety, depression, anger, outbursts and a need to often isolate himself from other people and social situations.
"With PTSD you are always in survival mode. It’s always fight or flight," he said.
He said he also struggles with being in places like malls, stores or other places where there is the potential for large crowds.
Savard said despite his struggles he is grateful that he made the decision to seek help, and grateful he was able to get a diagnosis.
"The earlier you realize that something is wrong and the earlier you get that diagnosis the better the prognosis is, but there is no cure," he said.
He also said that like many mental illnesses PTSD is an "invisible disease" and that is why it can be difficult to seek out help and open up to others.
"It’s OK to talk about it, it’s not a weakness," Savard said.
Savard is now working to start a PTSD support group in the Steinbach area that would hold monthly meetings and invite anyone suffering with PTSD to come and spend time with others, talk about their own struggles and listen to others who may be in similar situations.
The first meeting of the PTSD support group is now planned for June 28 at 7 p.m. at the Steinbach Legion.
Savard said he wants to see the reaction to the first meeting and from there decide when and how often more meetings will be held.
He added the meetings will be for anyone diagnosed with PTSD and not just those who have served in occupations like the police force or military.
Savard now hopes local residents who are dealing with PTSD feel comfortable to come out to the first meeting.
"No matter how bad things are, you are not alone," Savard said. "It’s going to be a safe space where we will keep things confidential and no one is there to judge."
Anyone that would like to talk directly to Savard regarding the meetings or any other issues regarding PTSD can call him directly at 204-392-2235.
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