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Empowering Mental Wellness event set for Thursday night

Brittlestar, Sportsnet's Ken Reid headline guest speakers
Stratford PTSD Support Group

It took a bad morning for Jean-Guy Poirier to know something was very wrong. After being diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder in the spring of 2017, Poirier felt his symptoms become more real than he could’ve ever imagined. The intrusive thoughts, the anger, anxiety and memory loss became overwhelming for him.

After he was admitted to Stratford General Hospital for help, he came to understand he wasn’t alone in dealing with PTSD, and he knew he wasn’t the only one searching for help.

“It was the trauma that had compounded over years of working for the Shakespeare fire department and not properly dealing with everything that came at me,” he said. “It’s a volunteer department and it gets busy enough out there - we were getting calls every three or four days. And if a call was bad, you should have time to process what happened and how you deal with it, but in a volunteer department you don’t always have that time or the resources to do so. There should be things available for you to ask for help.”

So, he began taking steps. A Facebook page, called PTSD - The Truth Behind The Smile, was launched in the fall of 2017 and Poirier officially got the Stratford PTSD Support Group up and running the following year. The group was necessary for a simple reason - doctors are good, but when it comes to a common experience that can at times be dark and depressing, peers are better.

“I’ve had some good doctors helping me, but they’re not peers who’ve lived it and know what it feels like after a bad call,” he said. “I started the group because I wanted others to have the opportunity that I had to create. You get into a room full of peers and you see that everyone else is in the same boat. It’s grown into something I never thought it would be.”

And that brings us to now. Poirier said he’s expanded the peer groups into London and Kitchener with some help from others he trusts. And because of the strength those groups are showing, Poirier decided to make Empowering Mental Wellness happen. On Thursday, May 23, at the Stratford Rotary Complex, Poirier has put together an event that will help shed even more light on mental wellness.

Stratford’s own Stewart Reynolds - or as most people on the internet know him, Brittlestar - joins Rogers’s Sportsnet Central co-anchor Ken Reid, psychologist Dr. Edward Beharry and Scott Goyette (founder of the Go Love Now Movement) for an evening of awareness and wellness. Poirier had put together a smaller show previously, but he’s cautiously optimistic this one will grab the public’s attention a little more. And it’s not just about getting newcomers to the peer groups, but that would be a nice benefit.

“The last show I did I wound up with about 85 per cent new faces in the audience, people I’d never seen before,” he said. “I think this is a good calling card for the groups, and I’d guess about 30 per cent of the members (of those groups) are planning on attending tomorrow. My hope is that people who come will walk away with something valuable.”

The show runs 7-10 p.m. and is $12 in advance and $15 at the door. A silent auction will also be part of the evening’s experience.