Our Story

Mark Long Bench

February 7th, 2017

That’s the date I sat on this bench in the yard of my children’s school, and made the decision that I was going to take my life.  I had been a police officer since 2002.

I have always been a type A personality, and someone who succeeded at anything I tried. I always thought that if I worked hard enough and dedicated myself to what I wanted in life; I could accomplish anything. Nothing could stop me, nothing stood in my way, and I woke up every day with a mission to get what I wanted, because that’s all I knew.

Shortly after the birth of my first child things began to change. I started to withdraw from family, friends, co-workers, and anything else that brought me happiness. At first it was little things – staying in the car while my ex-wife and children got groceries, and no longer wanting to go to family events or social engagements where it was noisy, or I was expected to have conversations. Birthday parties, weddings, holidays, it was all becoming too much.

I stopped sleeping. I felt confused and foggy all the time, and physically ill most days. I could no longer organize my thoughts. I felt alone and scared, but couldn’t explain why. I felt extreme sadness, followed by anger when I couldn’t pull myself out of it. No matter how many people I arrested at work, no matter what crime I tried to solve, there was always more trauma and chaos waiting for me the next day. I sought professional help on my own, however, my symptoms were initially misdiagnosed.

I was a police officer for 15 years… murders, robberies, car accidents, violent assaults on others and on myself, I’ve seen it all. But the worst? Suicides. Seeing people do the worst and most unimaginable things to each other and to themselves, it all became too much.

 

 

With the help of my spouse at the time, I was taken to my Employee Assistance Coordinator at the police station. She begged for their help stating I had not slept in months, and was suicidal. Two months later I was diagnosed with PTSD. My employer was advised that I would not be able to return to work until I had received significant therapy over time. This is where my real journey began.

At the time, I felt safe and supported to get the help I needed. But three months later, my pay and benefits were cut off, and I was told that unless I agreed to more medical testing, they would not reinstate my pay.  Only after more medical experts confirming my diagnosis, and my family and friends begging for help was my pay finally reinstated. I was forced back to work in order to keep my pay.

I was sent back to work sick. I was sent back to work broken while my family worried for me. I lasted less than three months back at work when my spouse and family realized I was still very sick.

They intervened.

Meeting after meeting, phone call after phone call. Texts and emails to my union and my police department. And yet no help came. I was finally put in the hands of a medical team who had extensive experience and knowledge dealing with military veterans suffering with PTSD. Almost immediately, they advised my family that I was too sick to get stabilized on my own. They recommended that I go away to an inpatient treatment facility in Ontario to get help with my symptoms and suicidal thoughts.

Many letters and communications were sent to my police department asking for them to help with funding for my treatment… but no one responded. To this day, two years later, my medical team have not received a response from my employer, confirming or denying they would pay for me to get help. I was no longer their problem and my doctors were at a loss.

 

 

My family and friends were working like a team around the clock to keep an eye on me and ensure I was not left alone to take my own life. The organization I trusted the most, had turned their backs on me, and I was advised there was no one coming to help. I gave up. I quit. I felt ashamed and that I was a complete failure. I felt weak. I felt defective. I was embarrassed and thought my family and my own children were better off without me.

On July 7th, I planned how I would just slip away and disappear from everyone’s life; a gift I believed I was giving them. Because of past experience dealing with suicide, my spouse recognized the signs that I was serious. She started making phone calls to my therapist, to a fellow officer, and to a good friend who did the hard thing, but the right thing. He made a phone call to other officers he trusted, and told them I needed immediate help. I was located and taken to the hospital where I spent three days in a Mental Health Ward.

I’m not ashamed to admit this happened, because it saved my life. Two days after being released from hospital, I met with Veterans Affairs Canada. I was advised because of my time in the RCMP early in my career, the RCMP would fund me to go to the treatment facility my doctors had been begging the city police to send me to. This started me on my journey of healing.

 

 

I eventually travelled to California to enroll in a program for PTSD, run by Veterans and First Responders. Here, I was surrounded by people who knew the struggle, and the path to healing. I met lifelong friends, other veterans, and first responders who also struggled because of their line of work. I saw the lives of warriors shattered from chaos and trauma. The strength and support of others allowed me to see there was an answer other than suicide.

Cracked Armour was born from this mindset – to raise awareness for PTSD and TBI and to support those still struggling. No one should ever have to die at their own hands because of a lack of funding. When people thank me for what I’m doing, I say, “No, thank YOU. This helps me just as much as it helps you.”

I discovered art therapy the day after a chaotic trip to Jamaica. I was sitting at home coming to terms with how sick I was… I spent 3 days in my room on vacation because I could not handle being around people anymore. I found a blank canvas, and some paints and started my first piece. Art was life changing for me.

 

 

Cracked Armour exists because of the love and support of my family, my beautiful children, my friends, and the fellow warriors I have met along the way.