After Martin Spriggs lost two veteran friends to suicide, he was compelled to do something to shed light on the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on soldiers.
Spriggs served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 15 years as an infantryman and paratrooper; he served in West Germany in NATO’s standing army and completed peacekeeping operations in Cyprus, Croatia and Bosnia.
He was also a member of the allied coalition during the first Gulf War; a parachuting incident ended his military career in 1996.
From there, Spriggs started a career in health care and last year, two of his friends, both Afghanistan war veterans, took their own lives.
“I just felt compelled to do something, so here I am,” he said outside of city hall Thursday morning, one stop of many on his cross-country cycling tour to raise awareness around the number of veterans suffering from PTSD and who far too often take their own lives.
“One of the biggest tragedies is there are resources to the issue and my experience is that most Canadians, since (leaving) Victoria to Thunder Bay, they’re aware of the issue and they are very sympathetic,” said Spriggs.
“Now it’s how do we turn that awareness into action to help these veterans,” he added.
Part of his journey includes fundraising for Your Life Counts, a charity focused on suicide prevention.
“The public health care system can only do so much and that’s when charities like Your Life Counts come into play because they help to plug those key gaps,” said Spriggs, adding he hopes his story and that of other veterans helps motivate people to take action because suicide has a ripple effect.
“It affects every aspect of life. When we prevent suicide, we do a tremendous service to our communities,” he said.
Spriggs is also urging an veterans who may be suffering from PTSD to seek help and not let any perceived stigma stop them.
He said when he left the forces in almost 20 years ago, there definitely was a culture to not seek help.
“I understand the forces have gone to great lengths to change that culture so I think we have to give them credit. However, if you’re a vet, if you’re out there, if you’re suffering in silence, please reach out because there are resources out there to help you,” he said.
For more information about Sprigg’s journey or to donate visit his Facebook page Coast to Coast Because Your Life Counts.