A retired Canadian correctional officer from New Brunswick is breaking his silence about his private battle living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hoping to help other officers who may be struggling.
Danny LeBlanc sits inside his daughter’s art shed reading from the pages of a book he and his daughter co-authored called Sworn to Secrecy, released in December 2022.
“Suddenly an inmate stormed out of the meat cooler, meat hook in hand, charging towards me,” he reads from the pages of the book that took him two years to write.
LeBlanc said he “really had to grind and sit down and talk about it.”
LeBlanc served as a correctional officer for more than 30 years, part of which was at Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick. He said while working at the prison, he kept the stress of working with inmates behind bars bottled up inside.
“You’re not allowed to talk about what you see and what you go through so you battle that on your own,” he said.
He said that’s why now, in retirement, he wrote the book, hoping to help other officers who may be struggling.
The book reveals his haunting stories from his career as a Canadian correctional officer, as well as his struggles with PTSD.
“I got to the point where I was contemplating suicide,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc said his symptoms only surfaced several years into retirement, which he said meant he was unable to access supports from his former employer.
But he is finally opening up, telling stories of death threats from inmates, a fellow officer taken hostage and how, for a time, he turned to alcohol to cope
“I decided the bottle wasn’t working,” LeBlanc said.
He quit drinking and enrolled in therapy. But, he said, being open with his family and writing the book with his daughter fostered the most healing.
“I was completely unaware of what dad was going through at work and all corrections officers,” said his daughter Melita Halonen, who co-authored the book and painted the powerful illustrations for the paperback.
“To give a voice to my dad but also to other correctional officers that are holding that in.”
LeBlanc said the book has helped him.
“I don’t have as much anxiety as I used to,” he said.
But more importantly, he said, the book is also helping other officers across Canada.
“I received a phone call from a correctional officer who said he was calling for help right now. That was a payoff for the book for me,” he said.
LeBlanc also hopes the book will help raise awareness about PTSD and improve supports for those still struggling, helping to release them from an internal prison.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
Crisis Services Canada’s toll-free helpline provides 24-7 support at 1-833-456-4566.
Kids Help Phone operates a toll-free helpline at 1-800-668-6868 with 24-7 support for young people as well as the Crisis Text Line, which can be reached by texting HOME to 686868.
The toll-free Hope for Wellness helpline provides 24-7 support for Indigenous Peoples at 1-855-242-3310. Online chat services are also available.
Trans Lifeline operates a toll-free peer support hotline for trans and questioning people at 1-877-330-6366.
For a directory of support services in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention at suicideprevention.ca.
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