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Retired soldier Jamie MacWhirter’s crusade to meet post-traumatic stress sufferers expanding into a storytelling mission

Premier Dwight Ball pins the Sacrifice Medal on Cpl. Jamie MacWhirter at Confederation Building in St. John’s Tuesday as his family watches.
Premier Dwight Ball pins the Sacrifice Medal on Cpl. Jamie MacWhirter at Confederation Building in St. John’s as his family watches in this file photo - Submitted

Jamie MacWhirter finds it hard to turn anyone down and that’s about to make his life a little busier than expected.

The retired Canadian Armed Forces corporal is still trying to figure out the details of his upcoming tour across the island of Newfoundland.

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The original plan was to meet with veterans, first responders and others living with post-traumatic stress disorder. He wants to interview them and post the videos on social media in the name of the PTSD Buddies support group he and his wife, Vanessa, have created.

In addition to the discussions, MacWhirter’s tour will also try to find ways to help the people he meets. Joining him on the tour will be Vince Savoia of the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, an organization that helps first responders deal with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, and representatives from Spartan Wellness, an organization established to help veterans with health care issues.

Since announcing plans for the tour earlier this year, MacWhirter said he has been inundated with requests from people and entire communities for the tour to visit with them.

He currently has a list of around 30 stops and expects that list will grow before the tour starts and keep expanding as the tour unfolds. MacWhirter said Savoia and the folks from Spartan Wellness will only be joining him for two weeks, starting June 10, but he expects he will continue on his own after they leave the tour.

“I don’t know how I’ll get around, but it will work out somehow,” he said in an interview this week. “I’ll just keep going until I run out of fuel, I guess.”

The tour has actually expanded beyond its main focus on post-traumatic stress and MacWhirter is fine with that, too.

“I’ve told people they don’t have to have PTSD for me to talk to them,” he said. “If you’re a Newfoundlander with an interesting story or you’re doing something fun, contact me and I’ll do a video with you.”

He is looking forward to telling a widening range of quirky and interesting stories, just as much as he is hoping to reach out to those with serious mental health issues and who could use some help, especially those living in the more rural parts of the province.

One of the ways Spartan Wellness can help is by facilitating medical marijuana prescriptions for people who could use the drug to help alleviate physical pain or mental torment.

MacWhirter uses cannabis to deal with his own post-traumatic stress issues from having served in Afghanistan. He wants to help others who might benefit from using it as he does.

“There are a lot of people in Canada and Newfoundland who use marijuana to help them with pain or their mental illness, but they don’t have prescriptions,” he said. “They’re buying it off the street. I don’t like that.”

MacWhirter said the stops along the way will not just be discussions and videos. He said there will be informal gatherings featuring barbecues and live entertainment. At some stops, he plans to arrange viewings of “The Other Side of the Hero,” a Canadian film documentary about post-traumatic stress disorder in first responders.

“This is not going to be a sad tour,” he said. “I’m going to make this as fun and upbeat as possible.”

In fact, he envisions the tour almost like episodes of “the Mercer Report,” in which host Rick Mercer travels the country telling the stories of Canadians from all walks of life.

MacWhirter is still finalizing the schedule and locations for tour stops, but expects to be in the western Newfoundland region late in the second week.

Weblink: www.ptsdbuddies.org.

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