Getting back to nature has long been considered a balm for stressed-out Canadians, but its restorative powers can be infinitely more beneficial for the thousands of military personnel and first responders struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The healing power of nature is highlighted in a new campaign for Warrior Adventures Canada (WAC), a Canadian non-profit operated by active and retired military members thatuses week-long whitewater canoeing, back-country camping and rock-climbing excursions to help PTSD sufferers reclaim their life.
The campaign is built around a spot developed by FCB Canada in partnership with Toronto production company Someplace Nice. The 90-second spot, titled “Join Us” and directed by Sean McBride, follows a group of real-life veterans and first responders suffering from PTSD, including an actual service dog, as they embark on their journey to recovery into the Canadian wilderness with WAC adventures.
Although the spot highlights the beauty, restorative power and majesty of nature through its imagery, the sound subtly incorporates the sounds of war – inserted to provide context for the ongoing battle PTSD represents for its sufferers.
“These veterans and first-responders are no less injured than those that come back with visible scars and injuries. We just don’t see them that way and therefore provide less resources in the healing process. This piece is meant to reframe how we look at PTSD and how we treat it,” says Nancy Crimi-Lamanna, Chief Creative Officer at FCB.
Director Sean McBride says the spot is aimed at showing PTSD sufferers in a different light, removingsome of the stigma surrounding PTSD while getting viewers to see them the same way they do people suffering from physical injuries – with compassion and a willingness to offer support.
“We wanted to move beyond a mere PSA and let the experience be the centrepiece,” says McBride.
PTSD can manifest itself in a wide range of symptoms, ranging from flashbacks to anger and irritability, sleep disturbance, problems concentrating, feeling cut off or detached from loved ones and difficulty imagining a future.
Veterans Affairs Canada estimates that 10% of war zone veterans – including war-service veterans and peacekeeping forces – will experience PTSD, while others may experience at least some of the symptoms associated with the condition. A 2018 study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found that at least 45% of Canada’s first respondents suffer from one or more of the symptoms consistent with PTSD.
Research conducted by UC Berkeley says that the sense of awe that frequently accompanies nature excursions can be a major contributor in the reduction of PTSD symptoms. The study of a dozen veterans who participated in a four- day white-water rafting trip found that it contributed to a “29% reduction in PTSD symptoms, a 21% decrease in general stress, a 10% improvement in social relationships, a 9% improvement in life satisfaction and an 8% increase in happiness.”
WAC president John Watson says that the spot perfectly demonstrates how nature can be instrumental in repairing and strengthening the minds of people living with PTSD.
“The interaction between the members of our trips and mother nature is so powerful, and because of this power, it is the key to the success of our programs. Watching this piece, we can see the intense connection it brings to our warriors, and how important it is to them in their journey,” he says.