Post by Meghan Etcheverry
Farid Yaghini has a unique perspective on treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As a former soldier with the Canadian Army, he claims he left his service in the past without experiencing PTSD, a mental illness, that is all too common amongst veterans and first responders. He attributes this to his brain’s ability to choose positive anchors to focus on and return to in times of stress. This is in direct contrast to what someone with PTSD experiences. A key element of the illness is the brain’s tendency to focus on the negative traumatic event that caused the PTSD in the first place.
This is the central concept of Farid’s Ottawa-based organization, Aftermath Association, which tries to provide holistic healing for sufferers of PTSD. Camp Aftermath is the association’s current project. Farid argues that although the army provides a platform for people to be a hero, it doesn’t allow the soldiers to see their good works received or used, and therefore the soldier can only focus on the cost of their actions. He uses the example of a soldier guarding a road that leads to a hospital in a hostile environment. If the soldier does their job correctly, the hospital will remain safe, and the soldier will eventually be moved, usually without ever seeing the good work that this hospital achieved. Therefore, the soldier is incapable of seeing the real-life positive effects of difficult choices that they had to make to protect the road to the hospital. Instead, they only focuses on the difficult choices that they had to make in the moment thus creating a traumatic experience.
Camp Aftermath is designed to combat this. Participants take part in a 21 day camp experience in Costa Rica that provides a holistic healing environment. They will have access to mental health caregivers, learn to meditate with yoga, and experience the Costa Rican culture. Philanthropy is the most important element of Camp Aftermath. Having soldiers participate as heros in a variety of Costa Rican charities, they regain their humanity through this platform.
Camp Aftermath focuses on long-term care. Once the participants return to Canada, their therapy will continue, along with an expectation that they will continue to volunteer in their communities. Through this long term philanthropic work, Farid and his team feel that PTSD sufferers will gradually be able to outweigh their traumatic histories with positive experiences, and hopefully be able to manage their lives.
On July 8, Camp Aftermath held a Family Fun Day fundraiser to help raise money to provide soldiers with this experience. The money raised will allow 10-12 participants to travel to Costa Rica. For more about how to help, visiting their fundraising page.