Connecting The Disconnected: The Story Of Peterborough's Redpath

Redpath, a Peterborough-based startup for those affected by mental health and addiction, is in the Finals of Bears' Lair Entrepreneurial Competition this Wednesday at Market Hall. To learn more about the backstory of how Redpath came to be, read this post below by the Redpath team...


In 2004 a maximum security prison in Canada recorded a staggering 53 inmate stabbings in 51 days. In response to this dramatic rise in prisoner violence, they contacted Peggy Shaughnessy for a needs assessment. Peggy was a trusted consultant after her Master's Thesis work with the Emotional Health Lab at Trent University as well as her subsequent work with Corrections Canada, assessing the needs of voiceless minorities within the prisoner population.

She was in a unique position of trust with both the administration and inmates; someone who could hopefully lead the way through this crisis. In one-on-one interviews with high-risk inmates, Peggy began by recording anonymous biographical data. When her questions turned to issues of trauma in the prisoners' early lives, many could not, or would not answer.

So Peggy handed them the questionnaire and asked them to check the boxes that applied, so that no one could ever know the answers a specific prisoner had given. Most – if not all – of the inmates she interviewed had been the victims of abuse in their lives, long before they had ever committed a crime. She promised these inmates that she would process their answers and return with a program, designed to address their needs.

Driving home that night, Peggy began to see a bigger issue. Many of these inmates didn't recognize that they had been traumatized in their early lives, or didn't think it mattered. They had been suffering in silence and didn't know it. Whatever program she designed for them would have to dig deeper than any other had done before, and carefully connect past traumas with behaviours today.

The program Peggy returned with would become the first RedPath Program. A group of 13 high-risk inmates sat down together and began to share their life stories along the path laid out by the program. Through each level of the program, they gained a new perspective on their lives, saw similarities among the groups' life experiences, and realized the effect of their trauma on their current suffering. These inmates formed a tight bond throughout the program, and loose ends began to be tied up. Many of them realized a connection between the crimes they had committed and the traumas they had been victim to. The RedPath program helped these prisoners place their traumas along the path of their life story, and measured a remarkable change in their growth as a result. Many would go on to be released from the prison, and were seen as examples of successful rehabilitation.

Peggy was certain that if the program could create positive change in prisons, it could make massive changes elsewhere. That's when the RedPath program began training facilitators to go into communities all around Canada with high levels of substance abuse, violent crimes and mental health issues. Here too the RedPath approach yielded the same incredible results. By guiding groups to realize the truth of their life stories, sharing only what they were comfortable sharing, missing pieces of their lives could fall into place and help them understand their lives in the here and now.

Over the past ten years, the Redpath program has trained a thousand facilitators to offer the program in their communities. These facilitators have in turn helped countless thousands of people suffering in their lives to find a way through their struggles, by coming to a greater understanding of themselves.

But the trouble with suffering is that it almost always happens in silence. We know that 90% of addicts will never seek treatment. We know that 1 in 5 people in Canada will be seriously affected by mental health struggles in their lifetime. We know that the rate of teenaged addiction is on a dramatic rise; and we know that the stigma associated with abuse keeps survivors from leading comfortable, healthy lives. We all have a responsibility to turn this around, but the current model is not helping people get onto a path towards happiness. If anything, it is deepening the stigma, pushing people into the shadows, creating a growing mass of people suffering alone and in silence.

However, almost everyone in Canada has access to the internet, and many people who are in trouble are spending more and more time online as an escape from their pain. How could we not respond? This is why RedPath is translating its programs into an online format, and building a free social network for everyone who is suffering.

—The Redpath Team

Learn more about Redpath by following them on Twitter and Facebook, watching this YouTube video, and attending this special event they're hosting during Mental Health Week (see invite below—we're a sponsor) on Thursday, May 8th at The Venue in Peterborough called "Connecting the Disconnected".

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