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A group of motorcycle riders sit on their bikes with the rear tires slightly in the water.

Bike rally supports officers with post-traumatic stress

Motorcycle riders symbolically dip their bike tires in the Pacific Ocean at the end of their cross-country tour to raise awareness about PTSD. Credit: RCMP

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When faced with challenges, talking to others who've been down the same road can be therapeutic.

That was one of the benefits of a cross-country motorcycle tour known as Rolling Barrage that took place last summer.

The goal was to raise awareness and funds for programs that help military, veterans and other first responders, such as police officers, who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The event was organized by Military Minds Inc., which connects military members and their families to programs and services that help them cope with PTSD.

The 16-day ride began in Halifax on August 6 and included dozens of RCMP officers.

Show of support

"You're with like-minded people who are dealing with their own PTSD diagnoses or who want to help," says RCMP Cpl. Jean-Paul Martin, who works for traffic services in Lanigan, Sask., and rode with the tour through that province.

"Many years ago, an event like this might have been viewed as a way to get a few days off," says Martin. "But not now. We know people are hurting and they need help."

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, those who serve in the military and first responders experience higher rates of PTSD than other professions.

Retired Sgt. Mark Doratti, who left the RCMP in 2008 and rode from coast to coast, says he's seen people "come out of their shell on the ride."

Early on in the tour, Doratti encountered a rider suffering from PTSD who avoided contact with others.

Doratti says the rider wanted to leave but was encouraged to stay until the tour's conclusion in British Columbia on August 21.

Safe place

"He came to realize he was in a safe place and people around him cared," says Doratti. "It was more important for him to stay and feel the camaraderie of the ride."

The event also spread information about PTSD to Canadians along the route.

"The ride was not only to help but to spread the message that this is having a big effect on first responders," says RCMP Cst. Ernest Impey, who joined the tour in Saskatchewan.

"It was great to see that there's a group of people — on the ride and those we met along the way — who are caring and kind and want to help."

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