Being a first responder isn’t an easy job. The job is stressful, the hours are crazy, and the risk is great. One seldom talked about risk of being a first responder is the risk of getting PTSD. The First Response To Apparel is a fundraiser dedicated to raising awareness about PTSD and to support Alberta’s First Responders. All of the money raised in the event goes to the CAREN (Computer Assisted Rehabilitation ENvironment) and the advancement of PTSD therapies at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital.

First Response To Apparel takes place on Thursday September 29th in Edmonton. We’ve donated a few Wearable Therapy by Tokii items to their silent auction and our Tees will also be on the runway. If you want to buy tickets to the event, you can do so by visiting their website.

Wilson Quan, Director of First Response To Apparel, answered a few questions for us. Check out his Q&A:

1) What inspired you to get involved in this fundraiser?

I’m actually a first responder myself. I have had and been a part of several successful businesses, and so when I saw my first responder coworkers suffering from PTSD, I decided that I had to do something for it. That’s why I created this event. Not only does this event raise money for the Glenrose Hospital for therapies towards curing PTSD, but after witnessing last year’s event, I noticed that psychologically the well-being of the first responders that volunteered for the event increased dramatically due to the interactions with the people that attended the event.

2) Have you personally experienced PTSD? Or do you have a close friend or family member who has? How has it affected them and those around them? 

I haven’t Been diagnosed with PTSD, however I do see my psychologist regularly. The life of the first responder is tough on the mind due to the tragedies that we see every day. I have many friends that have been diagnosed with PTSD and several of the volunteer models have been diagnosed with PTSD. I can’t speak for them, but from talking with them, I do know that it is tough to deal with. Times are changing and the agencies that they work for are changing; the times and culture is also changing. I do know that, in the past, it was an old-school mentality for most of the first responder agencies. It was very much “suck it up and deal with it”, but now (slowly) that culture is changing.

3) Why do you think PTSD is often swept under the rug? Why don’t people talk about it happeninfire (1)g much in first responders?

My belief is that PTSD is often swept under the rug because the cases that we are most familiar with involve military, police, fire, emergency services. In the majority of those services, it is a male dominated industry and in those male-dominated industry’s there is a perception that they feel they need to uphold. That perception is of a strong indestructible figure. So many times the mentality is that they can just deal with it and nothing affects them.

4) Why do you think there’s such a stigma associated with PTSD?

I know from the dealings I have had there’s a stigma with PTSD because, to the common person, you can’t tell if a person is suffering from PTSD. Speaking to some of the first responders who are police officers, I’ve been told that criminals they arrest will sometimes tell the judge that they suffer from PTSD as an excuse to show leniency. However, they’ve never been diagnosed but they know that it’s just difficult to disprove.

This then causes problems for police officers who have been diagnosed with PTSD. Many of their coworkers will then say, “Oh they just need time off”, “They’re wimps”, or “they just can’t handle it and they need an excuse”. Unfortunately, our city has suffered some losses in the first responder world due to PTSD, and therefore it’s opened the eyes of many of the first responders to acknowledge that it is an issue. This has caused first responders to be more open-minded about PTSD and it has caused upper management of first responders to become proactive towards PTSD.

5) Have there been any moments you almost lost hope for your cause?

Ha ha ha sometimes it feels like I lose hope every minute. It seems like the roller coaster ride that never stops. one moment we’ve raised enough money, and the next moment we lose a sponsor. One moment we have support from the agencies, and the next moment we don’t. The great thing is that I have built businesses previously from the ground up and I know that it takes a lot of work and persistence to make it successful. I use that experience for this cause. Every day that I wake up, I know that the previous day is over and I aim to have a more successful day than the last.

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6) What has your happiest/most rewarding moment in your advocacy journey?

This question is a tough one. There have been many rewarding moments in this journey. However there is one that stands out. One of the volunteers is a police officer. He became a part of this event because his partner died after complications due to an injury that he sustained during a charity event. When he started with this event last year, it seem like everything in his world was crumbling. After the success of the event and his willingness to become a spokesperson for the event, his demeanor has completely changed this year. He’s proud of what he’s doing. He’s proud that he’s a part of this event and his relationships with friends and family look like they’ve improved also. When you see something like this happen because of the event, it makes the whole roller coaster ride worth it.

7) Can you tell us a little about last year’s fashion first event?

Last year’s First Response To Apparel was amazing. It was one of the few times in my life that a finished product turned out exactly how we envisioned it. The venue was provided by our title sponsor, Bavaria BMW. With help from J’adore events, the place was beautiful. WE Solutions Accounting CO helped out so much as a sponsor and our photographers captured every moment. The people that attended the event were so supportive of the first responders who volunteered as models. They cheered loudly during the event. After the event, they wanted to interact with those volunteers. The event raised almost $20,000 for the Glenrose rehabilitation hospital in there further developments towards PTSD. I will never forget last year’s event mostly because of the reactions of the volunteer first responders immediately after. We had a get together after the event and they were absolutely over the moon with how well the event went and also the reactions of the people that attended. They felt appreciated, they felt honored, and they couldn’t wait to do it again.

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