Riders with the Rolling Barrage, a cross-country motorcycle ride in support of people with PTSD, stopped to visit the Wall of Honour at Rotary Park before heading out of Cranbrook, Thursday, August 18. (Barry Coulter photo)

Thunder across the land: Rolling Barrage raises support for PTSD

Rolling Barrage create awareness of the affliction of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder raises funds for agencies that help sufferers of PTSD

The thunder of dozens of motorcycles rolling into town in August has become an annual event— the Rolling Barrage.

The Rolling Barrage, now in its sixth year, hits the road every year for a coast-to-coast motorcycle ride. The Rolling Barrage create awareness of the affliction of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder raises funds for agencies that help sufferers of PTSD.

Jim Gordon, one the Rolling Barrage’s organizers, got off his bike in Cranbrook (en route to Grand Forks the next day), Wednesday, August 17, along with about 50 other riders for an overnight stop at the Heritage Inn.

“There’s been a big turnout across the whole country,” Gordon said. As well as the core group that are riding across Canada, motorcycles join up for stretches of the journey. At each stop, the riders are met and feted by supporters in each community.

The Rolling Barrage was initially made up largely of military veterans, but as a group it’s open to anyone, particularly those who are likely to be exposed to traumatic experiences — CAF Members, Veterans, First Responders, the Safety Community …

“We’ve got a lot of veterans,” Gordon said. “Firefighters and police are starting to show up, because that’s what we’ve wanted right from the get-go. [The Rolling Barrage] originally started with veterans, but now we’re becoming more inclusive, and it shows.”

WATCH: The Rolling Barrage leaves town —

Every year, the Rolling Barrage is growing. Gordon said that to date there have probably had 450 bikes along on the ride.

Crossing Canada by motorcycle is a beautiful way to see the country and meet all its people, but the purpose is forefront, raising awareness about PTSD and breaking the old stigmas associated with it.

About half the riders in the group have been afflicted with PTSD, Gordon said.

“I’ve got PTSD, and this is a great wait to aid yourself. We call this ‘travelling therapy.’ A lot of the same people show up every year. It’s like a family bond, and the family just gets bigger.”

PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by experiencing or witnessing extreme events. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Most people who go through traumatic events may have difficulty adjusting and coping, and can be at risk of self-harm or suicide. Symptoms can get worse , and last for months or years.

Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical to reduce symptoms and improve function.

Trauma-related mental disorders, once known as shell shock, among other terms, have been documented for thousands of years, but they’ve also been misunderstood for as long. PTSD is more understood now, what causes, what effects it can have, and how it can be treated.

Gordon — himself a military veteran — said that PTSD has become more understood, but the stigma is still there. “And we’re trying to help people break out of that stigma.

“We’re all told ‘suck it up; be a man, be a woman, life goes on.’ And that’s not the case. Far too many of us kept our demons inside. And now they’re coming out in a variety of ways. It’s not just committing suicide. It’s punishing our families, our loved ones. We think we’re trying to protect them [by keeping the PTSD symptoms inside ourselves], but we’re not.

“Family is the most important thing,” Gordon said. “We can go to all the psychiatrists in the world, but they don’t live with us. We spend an hour or two every week, two weeks or a month … there’s no way we can remember everything that’s happened, whereas our families live it.”

One of the missions of Rolling Barrage, Gordon said, is to let “people who have PTSD know that it’s okay to say ‘I need help,’ and get them to realize that it’s okay.

“I start my morning briefing by saying that I’ve got PTSD, and if anyone wants to talk, we’ll go off privately, and the ride can wait,” he said.

“All of the safety crew is like that. It’s a place where we want everybody who’s got PTSD, or is wondering if they got PTSD, or if a friend has got PTSD, that they can come and ask questions, and nothing will be judged.”

The Rolling Barrage set off from Halifax on August 1, and were due to arrive in Burnaby Saturday, August 20. From Cranbrook, their next stop was Grand Forks.

To make a donation to the Rolling Barrage, you can go on the website rollingbarrage.com — there’s a button there to donate, through PayPal or transfer. If you come to a function or see the Rolling Barrage on the road — at a gas station say — you can make a cash donation.

Every cent donated, Gordon said, goes to different agencies that help the sufferer and families try to deal with PTSD.

See more at https://therollingbarrage.com/