Cpl. Jamie McWhirter knows he still has a lot of work to do in advocating for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
An incident at the Valley Mall in Corner Brook drives home the need for greater awareness.
On Sunday Corner Brook veteran Mike Rude his service dog, Spark, was not permitted in the mall, located in downtown Corner Brook. Rude explained to the mall employee that Spark was a service dog and provided proof, but he was still told he had to leave the premises.
MacWhirter, a Corner Brook native who now lives in St. John’s, is the author of "A Soldier Returns: My Battle with PTSD." He is heavily involved in educating people about the illness through a support group called PTSD Buddies.
MacWhirter he figures whoever told Rude to leave didn’t have knowledge about what a service dog is, what PTDS is or how it can be a tough challenge for families to cope.
He said service dogs are allowed to go anywhere and people have to become more educated on the subject because there have so many recent instances of veterans being denied access with a service dog to everything from ferries and courtrooms to airplanes.
“It’s either people aren’t reading the news or I’m not doing a good enough job getting it across Newfoundland,” he said.
He believes businesses who deal with the public should look at getting employees to get involved in mental illness training to be better prepared for situations like the one that unfolded with Rude.
Trudy Broderick, property manager of the Valley Mall would not do an interview, but she issued a statement through email Friday afternoon.
Broderick said she met with Rude’s wife the day after the incident happened. She said she conveyed to her the mall is sorry that access to our shopping centre was denied to her husband.
“I stated that our employee should have followed our policy in allowing service dogs into the building," she wrote. "I apologized for all the trouble caused to her and her husband, and I tried to reassure her that this would not happen in the future.”