Corrections officer raising PTSD awareness in Kamloops with T-shirt campaign | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Corrections officer raising PTSD awareness in Kamloops with T-shirt campaign

Marino's son models one of his shirts, with IGY6 on the breast of the shirt, meaning 'I got your 6.'
Image Credit: Contributed/David Marino
April 26, 2021 - 6:00 AM

When David Marino started to feel the walls closing in on him at the B.C. corrections facility he works at, he was scared and confused.

It was a slow build. Marino said he noticed himself changing gradually, but he tried to retain a sense of normality, the fear and hyper-vigilance were becoming more common. He started having nightmares.

Until one day in September when he was on shift, he needed to escape the prison.

“I couldn't sit there. I started feeling ill and everyone said ‘you're getting COVID,’ but it wasn’t that. I started crying. Then the concrete walls start to close in, it was scary,” he said.

Marino is a corrections officer, but he hasn’t worked since then. He has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, but he is still employed by B.C. Corrections.

Because of his PTSD, Marino rarely leaves his home anymore and it’s difficult to maintain his attention to one thing for any period of time, but he’s found a way to keep busy.

He’s making custom T-shirts to raise awareness for PTSD, especially for first responders that suffer from the illness.

“It'll be hard to do anything, but I know there are so many people that are hurting. I can see it in other officers,” Marino said. “(PTSD) is just so silent that now that I'm dealing with it, I think I can see the signs in other people.”

READ MORE: Why some paramedics never leave the accident scene

He said he had no idea what was happening when he first started feeling the brunt of the symptoms — flashbacks, nightmares and hyper-vigilance. But he’s thankful a family member who was also a corrections officer saw the warning signs.

“It helps a lot to have someone who’s worn the same boots as you, but there’s a catch because it can also be a trigger. He was the hardest person to talk to, but he barged into my house after I hadn’t worked for twelve days. He knew something was wrong,” Marino said.

That was the start of his journey to finding help. Now he goes on hikes with an occupational therapist, sets small goals for himself and that family member continues to check on Marino frequently.

“He checked on me every day for some time. The little things like, ‘How are you? Did you go outside today?’ I was an asshole every so often, but I wasn’t normal,” Marino said.

One of those small goals is now making T-shirts to raise awareness for PTSD and the funds will go to Honour Ranch in Ashcroft, a support home for armed forces and emergency personnel suffering from stress-related injuries, like PTSD.

He makes the shirts at home. In an effort to support others who are suffering from similar illnesses, he said it’s a job that helps him too.

“When people are buying these shirts, they’re not just helping Honour House, they're helping me too. The more things I can do to keep busy with a routine, that helps me,” he said.

He's made lots of progress since he left work more than six months ago.

When he left work in the middle of his shift in September, Marino said he almost didn’t make it home. It was a difficult time for him, and amid confusion and hopelessness, he contemplated turning his vehicle off the edge of the road.

“Thankfully, what drove me home, and I remind him to this day, was that my phone turned on and I have a picture of my son on the screen. That picture guided me home. It was the biggest moment of my life. Today, when I'm at that point and nobody’s around, I turn my phone on and look at his picture. That picture will not change and my daughter may get upset, but as they get older, it’s going to stay,” Marino said.

The experience has been an “eye-opener” for him. Marino said he looks at other people differently now and understands that other people may have trauma he will never see.

“What happened to me and to some people, is that in times of trauma you try to maintain your sense of normality until you no longer can. I was surviving day-to-day, then things started changing,” he said, with a much clearer understanding of what he deals with daily.

He’s planning to make 200 shirts and hopes to see all first responders with one of his shirts. For now, he will largely be mailing them, but he hopes to start making deliveries when he feels more comfortable.

Check out Marino’s website here to order one of his shirts.

READ MORE: Honour Ranch near Kamloops will provide refuge for those suffering after serving our country

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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