What were you doing from July 19th to the 22nd? Doug Holsworth, a Security Intelligence Officer (SIO) at Bowden Institution, was walking 50 km a day in the Netherlands as part of the Nijmegen March (The Walk of the World). This is the largest walking/marching event in the world with over 50,000 people participating in its 100th anniversary this year. What began as a training exercise for Dutch military personnel in long distance endurance marches has become a challenge for thrill seekers across the globe. But this event meant much more to Doug, someone who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of his work in corrections.
“I dedicated my walk to raising awareness about PTSD,” explains Doug. “It was my hope that by participating in the march and speaking about my own PTSD issues, others out there will realize that PTSD is all too common in our chosen field. We need to recognize that not only is it ok to speak about it, but also necessary to maintain positive mental and physical health.”
Doug cannot pinpoint one single event that caused his PTSD, but says it was a number of events happening over his 22-year-long career with CSC that had a cumulative effect on him. Without realizing it, his personal life and well-being had taken a bad turn and were struggling. That is when he decided to take up walking as a way to relieve stress, better his physical health, and take his mind away from work.
“I have always walked as part of a stress relief program,” he says. “Through walking I was able to identify for myself that PTSD had long been a negative influence on me and my home life. I absolutely realize that things I have experienced throughout my career pale in comparison to what many others have gone through, but I have struggled.”
Training for this walk involved 94 days and walking a total of 700 km. During the actual event, Doug completed 200 km over the course of four days. He would wake up at about 2:30 a.m. each morning, eat breakfast, and then head out walking. Once he completed 50 km for the day, he would eat and head to bed in preparation for the next day. He finished the event with feet that resembled “hamburger” and a painful leg due to a work injury acting up. Overall, however, Doug finished strong and looks forward to completing this march again over the coming years.
It’s important to note that Doug didn’t do this on his own. Months prior to leaving for Holland, he approached senior management in the Prairie Region about what he was planning to do. He said he wanted to represent CSC in this march, while wearing CSC gear, and wanted to use the opportunity to raise awareness about PTSD. He received unanimous support from management, including financial support, and was encouraged for his efforts.
“I’m very grateful to the region and management for supporting me in doing this. This event was important to me and I appreciated the response I received from them,” says Doug.
One of the mottos for the march is “You never walk alone.” For Doug, this held significant meaning particularly as he found himself walking amongst thousands of people, some of whom quickly became new friends, and was able to educate them about what it’s like to work in corrections and talk with others about PTSD. As the only representative from CSC, this was a valuable experience for him. But perhaps most striking was how important the motto was to Doug’s mission – something that wasn’t lost on him.
“I firmly believe that anyone dealing with PTSD issues should feel the same way at CSC. Do not allow yourself to walk alone if you are suffering. Please seek the help that is available and get healthy for yourself and your family. Don’t let the stigma of PTSD or mental health issues stand in the way of living a positive and healthy life.”
CSC employees are encouraged to visit the "Workplace Mental Health Injuries" Infonet page for information about resources available to you.