STEPHENVILLE Dave Rex thought Dean Peckford showed great strength in sharing his story on finding a way to live his life with mental illness.
© Star photo by Frank Gale
Dean Peckford, left, an RNC officer in Corner Brook who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome, talks with Dave Rex following Peckford’s address to a group in Stephenville on Wednesday.
Although Peckford’s speech wasn’t during Mental Health Awareness Week, the RNC officer in Corner Brook hardly left a dry eye in the room of 61 people at the Holiday Inn in Stephenville on Wednesday.
Bell Aliant, in conjunction with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Rotary Club of Stephenville sponsored The Let’s Talk luncheon.
Peckford, who joined the RNC training program in 1990, told about the first time he responded to a suicide as a rookie officer, about his time in the Criminal Investigation Division that led him to a homicide investigation, responding to a fatal accident — one that would claim the life of his friend — and at one point, even fearing for his own life.
He described how his illness made him feel like the energy was sucked out of him. How he would cry often, felt tired and suffer pain that would last for days.
After time off from work he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety, and depression. After several failed attempts at returning to the force, he finally went back to work in an administrative position and told the people on hand he would not be returning to a job in the field, especially as a first responder.
His advice for people with anxiety and depression is to stay positive, to take baby steps and that it takes time. He also said if you need help, then don’t be afraid to ask.
Rex said after spending 40 years in safety, he can empathize with Peckford. Rex retired from the Abitibi-Consolidated mill in Stephenville, but also worked at the Fluorspar mines in St. Lawrence and saw numerous tragic incidents.
“This is where,” he said, “two generations of miners were wiped out as the result of radiation induced lung cancer.”
Rex said when he got married in 1968, he had seven brothers-in-law attend his wedding and ended up helping to bury six of them, who were all miners and died of lung cancer.
“The talk here today brought back a lot of memories from that time and the feelings and emotions that went along with it,” Rex said.
Joannie Coffin, a retired hospital social worker, said Peckford’s talk was enlightening and refreshing to hear because its real and there are so many people affected by things like post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety, and depression.
She said it took a lot of courage for this man to get up and say what he said.
“I commend him for speaking the unspoken that so many people don’t want to talk about. That’s the bottom line, he did it and he did it well,” she said.