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Mental Health and the Canadian Forces - Recent Articles

the 48th regulator

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http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1215906--canada-s-military-to-test-breakthrough-procedure-to-identify-and-treat-ptsd-in-soldiers


Canada’s military to test breakthrough procedure to identify and treat PTSD in soldiers




Allan Woods Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA—The defence department is looking to cutting-edge medical technology in its battle to identify and track legions of Canadian soldiers who have developed or are being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Defence Research and Development Canada, the scientific agency that supports the military, will spend a quarter of a million dollars to test the finding that the psychological disorder that has appeared in up to 20 per cent of Canada’s front line war fighters can be detected through magnetic fields given off by the electrical impulses in the brain.

The study, to be completed by early next year, is based on research that was able to detect distinct patterns of brain activity in American veterans diagnosed with PTSD — patterns that did not appear in people without the condition.

That work has come as a relief to hundreds of U.S. soldiers who have taken the tests, said Dr. Brian Engdahl, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota who has been treating patients with PTSD for decades.

“To put it simply in the words of one veteran, you now have physical evidence of my emotional injury,” he recounted. “I think that sums it up pretty well.”

The work started in 2007 when Dr. Apostolos Georgopoulos, a University of Minnesota neuroscientist, employed a magnetoencephalographic (MEG) device to map the distinct magnetic impulses of a constellation of brain disorders, including schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

His team applied those findings to post-traumatic stress disorder in 2010 and found that the re-enactment and memory of traumatic events was caused by electrical activity in the right temporal lobe of the brain.

“PTSD was a challenge because it is a disease that people suffer from, but there’s no known structural, neurotransmitter or other malady where you open the brain . . . and see something that really makes the difference,” Georgopoulos said.

Before this, diagnosing the psychological disorder had been complicated. The symptoms, including depression, anxiety and substance abuse, could be the problem themselves or could be symptoms of other diseases. Those symptoms can also be masked by veterans reluctant to admit they have a problem or to get help.

Another difficulty is tracking the success of the various treatments in those seeing a psychiatrist or taking medication for PTSD.

Engdahls says they have not been able to follow affected veterans through the course of their PTSD treatment, but there have been scans of veterans whose PTSD is in remission and the magnetic signature given off by their brains is distinctly different.

“With people who have recovered from PTSD the stamp is still there, but it is far less intense.”

The defence department plans to perform the MEG diagnostic scans on Canadian soldiers who have been diagnosed with PTSD, those with no mental illness as well as civilians with and without minor traumatic brain injuries (concussions).

Getting a handle on the new procedure and being able to see how well patients respond to treatment, the department says, “is critical to be able in helping them with their recovery, and determine when they could be safely redeployed.”
 

FormerHorseGuard

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Feel Free to move to proper spot not sure where to post my  opinion on this.


I joined the army reserves before the heavy duty  peace keeping and peace making taskings came up, and  got out before the current missions.
I have been on the fence for a along time about my  feelings and thoughts on PTSD.

When I joined I never thought people died on Peace Keeping missions, learned that  was a myth really  soon, a guy  who trained me on my basic training died in 1992, in Bonsia, or what  ever they called that  piece of land that  week.

I have met a guy on course who was shot on the same Peace Keeping mission and now have known a soldier who came home from a tour overseas an the tour came home with him. He  is now dead.

My great uncle served in the Great Police Action called Korea, and he was entertaining as a kid to watch tv with and war movies. Sofa, chairs , tables were tossed around and he shot back at the bad guys on tv and threw gernades at the tv and cursed and sworn like a real trooper at the TV. Never knew till later in life that he had PTSD, heard stories about him from other guys who served him at the local Legion after he died and I was doing the Remembrance Day Parade, years later. He went over there under age because most of his family joined the army as a teenager, he ended up over there at 17, came home then went back once he was of age. He was PPCLI, not that it matters the unit. He got out of the army after the war wwas over. There was no treatment for him.

I think it is time to forget there is a Reg Force and a Res Force. Time to treat all returning soldiers with the same level of care and improve that  level of care.
I know Res soldiers ask and sometimes keep asking for a tour till they give up or are accepted for a tour. Reg Forces are told and off they go.
Some time both groups of soldiers volunteer for a duty because they  feel the need to help and want the action.
There are no diffences when a Res or a Reg Force gets a physical injury on a tour, they  both bleed the same colour, both hurt the same way and need the same level of medical care. The care only changes when they come home.

The mental damge in a Res or Reg force soldier is the same and needs the same level of after care. I just wish there was more help for both.

Have some questions, are there support groups at the Res Units sort of like AA meetings where they can go and talk to others who have been there and can help each other get the coping skills they  need? Do Reg Force bases have these sort of groups ? Are RES troops welcome to attend, I just want to know so in case a friend needs soem help I know where to point them.

 

the 48th regulator

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FormerHorseGuard said:
Have some questions, are there support groups at the Res Units sort of like AA meetings where they can go and talk to others who have been there and can help each other get the coping skills they  need? Do Reg Force bases have these sort of groups ? Are RES troops welcome to attend, I just want to know so in case a friend needs soem help I know where to point them.

Yes to all of you questions. 

http://www.osiss.ca

If you still live in the GTA, I hear the local Coordinator is a real neat guy!

dileas

tess
 

The Bread Guy

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A new study found 13.5% of Canadian Forces soldiers deployed to Afghanistan returned home with mental health issues.

Researchers studied a sample size of 2,014 soldiers deployed from North America and Europe between 2001-08 and found post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was the most common mental illness (8%) followed by depression (6.3%).

Soldiers deployed to particularly dangerous areas in Afghanistan were found to have a higher risk of mental health issues, the study found. A deployment to Kandahar was found to increase the risk almost six times compared to deployment in the United Arab Emirates or Arabian Gulf, the study says.

Canadian Forces members with lower ranks were also more likely to have mental health problems, according to the study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The study's authors hope the findings can be used to help better treat soldiers and veterans suffering from mental health disorders ....
Sun Media, 2 Jul 13

Summary of "Deployment-related mental disorders among Canadian Forces personnel deployed in support of the mission in Afghanistan, 2001–2008," David Boulos MSc, Mark A. Zamorski MD MHSA, 2013, doi: 10.1503/cmaj.122120 here - full article attached
 

Armymedic

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1 in 10 Canadian suffer from some sort of mental illness in their lifetimes.

The stress of deployments hastens the onset. This has been theorized for several years.

The only difference between now and before is that it is socially acceptable for this topic to be discussed.

 

The Bread Guy

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Letter to the Editor: New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Red Deer Advocate, St. John’s Telegram, Halifax Chronicle-Herald, Waterloo Region Record, Ottawa Citizen, National Post, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, Windsor Star, Regina Leader-Post, Edmonton Journal, Vancouver Sun, Ottawa Sun, Edmonton Sun, Kingston Whig-Standard, Globe & Mail, Le Devoir, Le Voix de l’Est, Le Droit

To the Editor:

There has been widespread discussion about the recently published Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) study entitled Deployment-Related Mental Disorders Among Canadian Forces Personnel Deployed in Support of the Mission in Afghanistan, 2001-2008.

This scientifically-rigorous study is the most comprehensive and accurate to date in helping guide mental health program enhancements. As in civilian society, however, we know that not all our colleagues suffering mental disorders have yet sought care. This is why the Defence Department invests so heavily in health surveillance and in measures to reduce stigma. The result has been stigma reduction among CAF members to a level below that of our closest allies, and much lower than among Canadians generally.

The Canadian Forces Health Services are also conducting several complementary studies to better understand the mental health impact of military operations. These include a large survey with Statistics Canada to assess illness among those who have not yet sought care.

One of the CAF's many leading-edge initiatives launched in 2009 is the 'Road to Mental Readiness' mental health education, awareness, and skills training program. It was specifically designed with the collaboration of serving operational personnel, veterans, and family members to increase mental resilience, enhance the ability of CAF members and their families to recognize distress in themselves and others, and assist them in accessing care.

These investments reflect the very high priority placed on mental health by the Government and by CAF leaders. Last year, Minister MacKay increased the CAF mental health budget by $11.4 million, bringing it to $50 million a year. These resources permit us to further enhance our comprehensive multi-disciplinary mental health system, which is already considered a model by Canadian and allied health authorities and has had the highest ratio of mental health workers to population in NATO.

The Canadian Forces Health Services will continue to apply the best scientific methods to optimize CAF programs and to provide our members the best possible health care.

Brigadier-General Jean-Robert Bernier MD
Surgeon General
DND/CF Info-machine, 9 Jul 13
 

the 48th regulator

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http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-08/ptsd-stress-disorder-suicide-rwanda-genocide-massacre-military/5010030


Romeo Dallaire, former UN commander who witnessed Rwanda genocide, pleads for action on PTSD

Foreign Correspondent By Sally Sara


The man charged with attempting to keep the peace amid the genocide in Rwanda says not enough is done to treat soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

As the United Nations commander in Kigali in 1994, Canadian General Romeo Dallaire was left powerless to intervene as up to 1 million people were slaughtered by rival ethnic groups.

Despite pleading for the resources and mandate to stop the bloodshed, the international community left him stranded.

He returned home from the horrific deployment broken by the experience, and suffering severe PTSD asked to be relieved of his command.

He says he tried to end his own life several times.

"I had nothing left. I was actually attempting to be suicidal and I was putting the mission at risk," he told the ABC's Foreign Correspondent program.

"So the first big decision was to realise that I wasn't able to handle it anymore and I asked to be relieved.

"The only reason I didn't succeed is the peer support was so tight that I wasn't able to finish it off - tried, but it didn't work.


Photo: Former commander of the UN peacekeeping forces in Rwanda Canadian General Romeo Dallaire. (REUTERS: Larry Downing)
"And so after the fourth one, I said, 'You know, maybe there's another way of looking at this'."

General Dallaire is now a senator in the Canadian parliament and says politicians, bureaucrats and military brass have failed veterans with PTSD and their families.

An outspoken campaigner for fellow sufferers of PTSD, he points to a lack of understanding of the disorder among the senior ranks of the military.

He says it is vitally important for government officials and military commanders to take PTSD seriously as thousands of international troops return from Afghanistan.

"When I see senior military or bureaucracy in the military acquiescing to budget cuts to this stuff, then you know that within the system, some of them have never really understood the depths of this injury," he said.

"That borders on criminal because people are killing themselves.

"We are talking about people killing themselves directly because of what we had them do, and to Pontius Pilate our responsibility to those in uniform and letting the civilians get away by cutting in to that, that is the highest degree of irresponsibility."

Trauma can damage the brain
Dr Bill Nash, a psychiatrist and former medical officer with the United States Marine Corps, says post-traumatic stress disorder is not a sign of weakness, but rather a psychological injury.

"Of all of the ways I've talked about post-traumatic stress with especially Marines and other warriors, the thing that gives them the most relief is to explain to them - and not in a way that's untrue, but based on science - [that] this isn't you, it's your brain, you blew a fuse," he said.

He says pathways in the brain can be damaged by trauma.

"They're the same kind of neurones that are in the inner ear that can be damaged by too much sound; the same kind of neurones in the retina of the eye that can be damaged by too much light," he said.

It's not you, it's not a weakness of you - you're a fragile being, you're breakable, and you were broken.
Dr Bill Nash
"So these parts of the brain can be damaged by exposure to overwhelming experiences, but you can't close your eyes to these things.

"So it's not you, it's not a weakness of you - you're a fragile being, you're breakable, and you were broken."

General Dallaire says the military has also failed to recognise those who died as a result of PTSD.

"We lost 158 people in Afghanistan, and so they've all received their due honours as they come back and so on, and recognition," he said.

"However, I'm estimating there were anywhere between 30 and 40 now who've committed suicide when they come back due to the injuries there.

"So what about them? When do we see their names appear?"

 

OldSolduer

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I spoke with an old friend last night. He confided in me he thought about suicide.

He was in the Medak Pocket in 93. Four of his section mates may have committed suicide.
 

Yrys

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http://globalnews.ca/news/956035/tim-laidler-helping-soldiers-transition-from-combat-to-civilian-life/

Tim Laidler: Helping soldiers transition from combat to civilian life

By Nick Logan, Robin Gill and Lara Howsam  Global News

VANCOUVER – When Tim Laidler came back to Canada after serving eight months
in Afghanistan in 2010, he felt numb. He said he tried to get back to life as usual,
going back to school to finish his undergraduate degree at the University of British
Columbia, and didn’t think he had any problems. “People were saying I had this
great perspective on the world now,” Laidler explained. “But, I almost had too
much perspective because I went from a place where I was close to death every
day, to school where you are trying to study for a midterm.”

“I definitely picked up some baggage over there,” he said. “There were things I saw
that were pretty horrific and they definitely came home with me… and they were
having an impact on my life.” That baggage included seeing a young girl setting
herself on fire and almost shooting a young boy he thought was a Taliban militant.

It wasn’t just the traumatic feelings that he bottled up, it was also positive emotions
that he had trouble dealing with. “When I went over to Afghanistan I shut down any
emotion, so I could survive in such a stressful environment and a war zone.”

He never considered that he may need to speak with anyone, on a therapeutic basis,
to discuss what he experienced and how to move forward. It was his good friend,
James Alexander, who pointed him in the direction of the Veterans Transition Program –
a research program at UBC aimed at helping troops with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Alexander told Laidler how he had benefited from taking part in the program. “I said to him
a couple of times, casually…’This is a really good thing for people and it worked well for me.. .
Tim you might want to give it a go.”

Alexander said it took him about a year to get Laidler to give it a go. They were  taking part in
a NATO exercise in southeast Kazakhstan when Laidler started to see the need to address
what he went through and learn how to deal with it. He thought it would just be a bunch of
guys sharing their feelings, but it was much more than that. The program not only helped
Laidler open up, it put him on a career path that would help hundreds of other Canadian soldiers.

He’s now paying forward the advice that Alexander gave him four years ago. “It gave me life
purpose again and something to be passionate about,” he told Global News. He became so
passionate about the program that he eventually took the job of executive director at what
is now the Veterans Transition Network (VTN).

He helped roll  out the program nationally and actively campaigns for funds.  What started with
just 12 soldiers back in 1999, has now grown to 400 people. The goal is to have 25 programs
across the country by 2015, being able to assist 150 veterans a year. Two of the co-founders
of the program said Laidler’s heart and “genuine” personality is what makes the difference,
helping soldiers accept peer support.

“He’s integral to the program,” Dr. Tim Black said. “He’s really the only reason why we are at
this point now, moving it out nationally.” “He’s very good at offering support in a way the people
can accept it. It’s not syrupy. It’s not the sort of typical counsellor speak that maybe you see in
movies sometimes. It’s just honest, straightforward [and] person-to-person.”

Black said Laidler is a big advocate for veterans and making sure they get help. He said people
people really respond to Laidler because they can see how much he cares.

“Tim is a very good example of a returning veteran,” co-founder Marv Westwood said. “He’s
totally committed to having a program to make sure other veterans like him get the same
benefit that he did [from the program].”

“The things he [Laidler] has done have been heroic in nature,” said Alexander, who has also
become a clinician after going though the Transitions program. “He’s helped enough people
now… things would have been different without him.”

As the program grows, Laidler said he would like to see it go beyond just helping solders,
possibly helping professional hockey players transition after they’ve been sidelined with injuries.
Laidler doesn’t need any special recognition for his work, but he said it’s now his purpose in life.

“I’m doing really good work and I’m happy with that,” he said. “It’s been an honour to work with [VTN].”


WHAT MAKES AN EVERYDAY HERO?

There are many people trying to make a difference who rarely receive the media attention they deserve.
Everyday Hero is our attempt to provide better balance in our newscast. We profile Canadians who don’t
go looking for attention, but deserve it. People who through their ideas, effort and dedication are making
a difference in the lives of other people.

 

The Bread Guy

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milnews.ca said:
Jean-Rodrigue Paré, International Affairs, Trade and Finance Division, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and the Mental Health of Military Personnel and Veterans, Publication No. 2011-97-E, Parliamentary Information and Research Service, Library of Parliament, 14 October 2011
How timely - we now have an updated version current as of 3 Sept 13,  attached in English and French.
Contents

    1 Introduction
        1.1 The Human Cost of Military Operations
        1.2 The Social and Public Issue
    2 What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
        2.1 Nature of the Disorder and Diagnosis
        2.2 From “Shell Shock” to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
        2.3 Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Today
        2.4 The Causes of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
        2.5 The Link Between Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Suicide
        2.6 The Prevalence of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Military Members and Veterans
            2.6.1 United States
            2.6.2 Australia
            2.6.3 United Kingdom
    3 Operational Stress Injuries in Canadian Military Members and Veterans
        3.1 From Military Member to Veteran: The Division of Responsibilities
        3.2 Operational Stress in Military Personnel
        3.3 Post-operational Stress in Veterans
        3.4 The Risk Associated with Operational Stress Injuries: From Absenteeism to Suicide
    4 Looking to the Future
        4.1 Scope of the Problem
        4.2 The Current Capacity of Veterans Affairs Canada
        4.3 Monitoring of Veterans
    5 Conclusion
    Notes
 

The Bread Guy

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From Postmedia News:
Many family doctors may not know how to assess post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in patients, according to an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The article, which appears in Monday’s issue of the journal, also offers practical advice for family physicians dealing with patients who are veterans.

The advice comes on the heels of four PTSD-linked suicides of Canadian soldiers within the span of a week. The apparent rash of deaths has prompted Canadian veterans suffering from PTSD — an anxiety disorder caused from witnessing a traumatic event — to share their stories and plead for more federal dollars to help current and former soldiers with mental illnesses.

Author Allison Crawford, from the University of Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, noted in her piece that there’s “no clear evidence of an elevated risk of mental health problems related to military deployment per se,” but that patients exposed to traumatic events in the military should be screened for PTSD. She added that many patients “will not spontaneously offer this information.”

She said veterans must be specifically asked about nightmares, feelings of detachment, whether they’re deliberately avoiding thoughts about upsetting events, and whether they’re easily startled.

For patients to be diagnosed with PTSD, they must be reliving traumatic events, avoiding things that trigger negative memories, viewing events in a negative light and experiencing altered behaviour, such as irritability or sleep disturbance, for more than a month. Crawford noted that the majority of patients suffering with PTSD (79 to 88 per cent) also suffer from depression, anxiety or substance abuse and should be screened for these conditions.

In the article, Crawford advised that family physicians who treat veterans should refer patients with PTSD for psychological interventions including behavioural therapies that address negative thinking, and exposure therapies that let patients relive aspects of traumatic events. Drugs can also be prescribed if therapy is not effective or if patients refuse to go ....
 

Armymedic

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I would argue some family physicians struggle to deal with patients who suffer from service related mental illness due to the lack of exposure to those who serve in the military, and generally due to the lack of of resources.

In my opinion; Coupled with the lack of knowledge towards the nature of military service and the unwillingness of the patients to disclose, the average family doctor would find it extremely challenging to specifically isolate PTSD due to its myriad of presentations, and then finding the ideal solution for its management.

Edited for clarity.

 

CombatDoc

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Rider Pride said:
I would argue many family physicians have difficulty will all aspects of mental illness. In my opinion; Coupled with the lack of knowledge towards the nature of military service and the unwillingness of the patients to disclose, the average family doctor would find it extremely challenging to recognize and properly address the issue.
Wow. Talk about a generalization. I would argue that you're wrong, since family physicians provide the majority of primary mental health care in Canada.  Most communities do not have the depth or breadth of mental health resources that we have in the CAF, so most FPs have to manage the common conditions without the benefit of consulting a psychiatrist.
 

Armymedic

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I agree. The above comment was overly simplistic. Let me fix that.

 

CombatDoc

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RP, thank you for the clarification. I understand the point you are making about Canadians generally poor understanding of military service and the unique demands it places on its members. You also make a good point about patients' reluctance to disclose.
 

Nemo888

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Once released from the service I was misdiagnosed by a family physician and two psychologists. Neither tried to rule out an organic cause for my issues and tried to get me on SSRI's and benzos. I fear that my experience is not anecdotal. We need to educate each other and take responsibility for our own treatment. Getting a second opinion and educating yourself is very important.
 

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Message from the Governor General
http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/governor-general-sends-holiday-message-to-military-families-dealing-with-suicide-1.1606892



OTTAWA -- Canada's commander-in-chief is calling for greater responsibility toward Canadian Forces members in a special holiday message to the families of military personnel coping with a recent series of suicides.

Governor General David Johnston says the recent deaths of Forces members are a reminder of the stresses faced by military personnel and the mental health challenges that can result.

"Recent tragic losses have reminded us of the stresses to which you are often exposed and of the subsequent mental health challenges that may result from military service," Johnston says in his Christmas Eve message to the Forces.

"Help is available, and together, we must demonstrate a greater sense of responsibility to our men and women in uniform, both during and after active service."

At least four apparent military suicides occurred earlier this month, a week apart in different parts of the country, reigniting the soul-searching debate around how Canada is treating its new generation of returning war veterans.

The Forces have already begun the 100-day countdown for a total withdrawal of all military personnel from Afghanistan. The non-combat training mission will close up shop by the end of spring, following the final withdrawal of combat troops in the summer of 2011.

The House of Commons defence committee was recently told that while the Harper government has invested millions into the military's mental health services, far less attention is being paid to helping the mentally and physically wounded transition to civilian life.

A September 2013 report obtained by The Canadian Press said that there were 25 confirmed suicides in 2011 and an additional 17 deaths in 2012.

The military's medical establishment is trying to determine what is triggering the deaths.

Johnston says his thoughts and prayers are with families and friends who have lost a loved one.

"The core military values of the Canadian Armed Forces -- duty, loyalty, integrity and courage -- are reflected in your indomitable spirit of determination and camaraderie," Johnston says in his Christmas Eve message.

"This professional ethos also means you may be called upon to serve under extremely hazardous conditions and circumstances."

Johnston says he is proud and grateful for the work of the Forces.

He cited the relief efforts during this year's severe flooding in Alberta and the recent typhoon relief mission to the Philippines.

"Our men and women in uniform show unwavering dedication to helping others and to upholding our democratic values."

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/governor-general-sends-holiday-message-to-military-families-dealing-with-suicide-1.1606892#ixzz2oUMu8CaZ
 

The Bread Guy

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This, from the PM when asked about CF recent suicides and mental health issues yesterday:
.... this government has invested record amounts in the mental health of our veterans and soldiers.  Canada has some of the most developed programs in mental health for people in the armed forces in the entire world. Obviously, we are concerned about individual cases and express our deep sympathies to those involved.  What I think remains very important is that our military people should be aware that mental health challenges are very real for people throughout society, including in the military. Supports are there, and we encourage those who need support to come forward.

This, from the Minister of Defence:
.... Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who have suffered and to the families who have suffered in these instances.  With that being said, we do take the issue very seriously. We are reviewing whether further enhancements are needed to ensure that the armed forces are responding to the needs of its members and veterans .... We will continue to make this a priority, because that is entirely appropriate.  What she and the members of her party could do is start supporting the efforts that we have made to support our men and women in uniform and our veterans. That would certainly be a welcome change. I think everybody would appreciate that.

This, from the PS for Veterans Affairs:
.... our government has made substantial investments to support Canada's veterans, including almost $5 billion in new additional dollars since taking office. This funding has been put toward improved financial benefits, world-class rehabilitation, and tuition costs to help veterans transition to civilian life.  While our government is making improvements to veterans' benefits, the Liberals and the NDP have voted against this new funding for mental health treatment, financial support, and home care services .... our government has created 600 new points of service across the country to assist Canadian veterans. Canadian veterans have access to 17 operational stress injury clinics across Canada to help them rehabilitate from service injury. Critically injured veterans do not have to drive to a district office. Our government will send a registered nurse or a case manager to visit them in the comfort of their own home.  Veterans who are seriously injured can count on their government to shovel their driveways, clean their homes, and cut their grass so they can remain in their homes comfortably, with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

The NDP asks for an emergency debate on the issue ....
.... We do know that the number of mental health professionals in the Canadian Forces has remained constant since about 2008, despite the urgent and growing need for mental health services to our Canadian Forces veterans of Afghanistan and other conflicts.  We have a problem, a bottleneck, in failing to fill these positions. We have had 50 boards of inquiry into suicides in the military that have gone without completion since 2008. We have had a spate of suicides in the last couple of months that have caused shock to the national consciousness. We have further statements on positions that are available to be filled which have not been filled. The current Surgeon General said that in November 2012 over 200 applicants were waiting to fill vacant positions, yet we have seen no action on this .... we want an opportunity for hon. members to speak to this issue and offer their opinions as to what might be done. This is an urgent and serious concern for Canadian Forces members and their families. We need to determine ways to move forward in addressing the mental health needs of the Canadian Armed Forces ....
.... and gets told by the Speaker there'll time to fit in some debate on the issue down the road. 

Meanwhile, the House holds a five-and-a-half hour emergency debate about the situation in Ukraine.
 

McG

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Nicholson says DND reviewing further mental health improvements; mum on details
Murray Brewster
MacLean’s
27 January 2014

OTTAWA – Canada’s military ombudsman and Opposition MPs are both asking why National Defence is just getting around to hiring urgently needed mental health professionals some 18 months after it promised to do so.

A lack of available psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and addiction counsellors has dogged the department for years, but a recent bout of military suicides — as many as 10 in the last two months — has thrust the shortfall into the spotlight.

“What will it take for people to show a greater sense of urgency?” asked Canadian Forces ombudsman Pierre Daigle, who blasted the government for failing to hire enough professionals in time to handle a mushrooming caseload.

“I know folks on the medical side; they want these people. What else do you need? If the minister says, ‘I’m giving you the money to hire people’ and you are still fiddling (with) the bureaucracy. I really don’t understand it.”

In the House of Commons, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to make the suicide crisis a personal priority. Harper responded by repeating his plea for those who are struggling to come forward for help.

Soldiers and their families say that when they do, they sometimes have to wait for as long as two years for help.

Mental health services have been a priority for the department, but the government is also “reviewing whether further enhancements are needed,” said Defence Minister Rob Nicholson. He did not elaborate.

“We do take the issue very seriously,” Nicholson told the House.

Marie-Helene Brisson, a spokeswoman for National Defence, said on the weekend that the department is in the process of hiring as many 54 extra staff members. Brisson would not say when they might be available.

However, Daigle pointed out in a 2012 report that the military’s medical branch has never reached its goal of 447 mental health workers and the latest statistics show the numbers have barely budged since the government promised action.

The department has just 388 mental health staff members across the country, nine more than in September 2012.

“We are witnessing an urgent and growing need for better access to mental health services for Canadian Forces members, but the hiring of mental health professionals has been stymied by internal red-tape and budget cuts,” said NDP defence critic Jack Harris.

Harris requested an emergency debate in the Commons to address the shortage, but was unable to get the necessary support.

“Under the Conservatives we are not meeting the needs of the military.”

A series of defence sources told The Canadian Press over the weekend that the bottleneck is the result of a stifling bureaucratic process that creates a disincentive to hire staff.

Since a federal hiring freeze was imposed in 2010, the system has become even worse.

Funding that was earmarked to pay for the unfilled positions has been turned back to the department and eventually the federal treasury each year as surplus funds.

The benchmark of nearly 450 was established a dozen years ago, before Canada saw major combat in Kandahar, and Daigle said it’s entirely possible that even more staff members and experts are now necessary.

Frustration is building within the military, said Daigle, who challenged the Harper government to deal with the bottleneck once and for all.

“It’s really in the political arena,” he said.

“You really need to put action to words. You’ve put money there, now show me — by the week, the month — how many people you’ve hired.”
http://www2.macleans.ca/2014/01/27/nicholson-says-dnd-reviewing-further-mental-health-improvements-mum-on-details/
 
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