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Need advice

Andrew001

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Hey guys,

I'm a serving member in the military and I'm not comfortable mentioning my name or the unit I work in for the moment.  I've been deployed a few times, to include Afghanistan, and I think I might need help.

I guess in a way this the most informal attempt to get information, maybe from others who have gone through mental health services in the CF, so I figure I at least try once to ask a few questions and then make a more considered decision.

My story is probably one that's typical.  Stress, looming panic attacks that I try to control, the fear of f**cking up; this is something that I think many soldiers face at one point or another (to varying degrees), but its getting harder for me to control it.  No one at my unit knows about this and in more ways than one it took a lot for me to register on this site to ask these questions.

My concern is that mental health services are basically designed to weed out those who are seen as broken and triage those who can be fixed and those who can't.  Like most career soldiers, I am extremely distrusting of what others think or do, past the guys that I work with and the whole "we're here to help you" rings to me of a "no really, come into my office where I shall tell you that this stays between us until I deem it not to be the case." 

My question, or maybe the thematic I was hoping some of you guys could expand on is what the risk is.  If, and I mean if, I actually go to one of these places, how likely is it that they lie to me and my unit finds out about it?  From some research, it seems contradictory to me that they say that everything stays between you and the mental health pers, and then they caveat it with what seems like a comical "the C.O, however, will know your limitations."

I'm probably bitter and paranoid, maybe.  Knowing the system, that means that the Orderly Room will get this paperwork (I can't imagine a Commanding Officer being directly, and "solely" contacted), which will then pass through four or five pairs of hands, all of whom will likely contribute to the rumour mill.  That this is even a possibility to me is completely unacceptable and I won't even entertain the idea of it. 

Again if that's the case me asking for help is absolutely and totally off the table.

Can anyone offer me insight?

I apologize in advance if my message seems lacking of respect.

Andrew
 

cupper

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Unfortunately I cannot help you with the CAF systems.

But I will say that asking for help is a good start, even here informally. It shows that you understand there is a problem, and need assistance to get that help, and you understand that you can't do it on your own.

I will say that I have experience with panic and anxiety disorder, as my wife suffers from it, and we have been dealing with it for many years now. I myself have been dealing with stress and mild depression as well, and am currently working with a therapist in finding ways to manage it.

I hope you are able to find the help you need, and remember that there is no shame in saying you need help. We all do at some point in our lives. 
 

SupersonicMax

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Andrew,

Call these guys: 1-800-268-7708.  They are the Canadian Forces Member Assistance Progran. Free and anonymous.  They'll only ask you whether you are an officer or an NCM and where you are posted (so they can refer you to a specialist in town).  Used it myself and recommended it more times than I can remember. 

Cheers,
 

ballz

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Andrew001 said:
My question, or maybe the thematic I was hoping some of you guys could expand on is what the risk is.  If, and I mean if, I actually go to one of these places, how likely is it that they lie to me and my unit finds out about it?  From some research, it seems contradictory to me that they say that everything stays between you and the mental health pers, and then they caveat it with what seems like a comical "the C.O, however, will know your limitations."

The CoC and medical personnel maybe converse back and forth, but medical personnel are not supposed to divulge any medical information, only the limitations, unless you give them permission to do otherwise. So for example, a common MEL for mental health purposes is not to be handling weapons. Depending on how its written, it may say "No handling of pers weapons," I can call over and ask the person "well what about crew-served weapons?" And they would answer that.

However, they should not answer "Well what's wrong with him? What meds is he on? What are his symptoms? Etc, etc." If you are concerned that the doctor may, I would say just make it clear to your doctor that you do not want your doc to discuss this stuff with your CoC, and if the CoC does call over it will be in the back of their mind (I know it always should be, but we're only humans).

If the CoC asks you directly, and they probably will, you are under no obligation to tell them anything and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. However, as a supervisor it helps me employ the soldier properly and help him/her if they will talk to me about it.
 

PuckChaser

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Andrew001 said:
My question, or maybe the thematic I was hoping some of you guys could expand on is what the risk is.  If, and I mean if, I actually go to one of these places, how likely is it that they lie to me and my unit finds out about it?  From some research, it seems contradictory to me that they say that everything stays between you and the mental health pers, and then they caveat it with what seems like a comical "the C.O, however, will know your limitations."

Look at it from the other side of the equation. What's the risk if you have a panic attack in a highly stressful situation? Do you end up hurt? Perhaps this is something that caught early, can easily be treated and you're right back to work. You only hear the bad stories where people get released, I'm willing to bet there's thousands of success stories not told.

You wouldn't ruck march with a broken leg, so don't "tough it out" for fear of career implications, call CFMAP. You have your whole life ahead of you, the CAF is only 25 years of it.
 

Pusser

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I can speak to this from the other side - the chain of command.  Let me assure you that it is in everyone's best interests to resolve these issues and the first step to resolution is to build trust.  First off the medical community is VERY guarded in what it tells the CoC.  As others have mentioned, the CoC will be informed of limitations, but that really is it.  I personally have been in situations where I have had to press the MO for more details, but that was for details on the limitations, not the cause of those limitations.  My concern was to ensure my personnel were employed properly and appropriately, while trying to balance both the individual's well being as well as the unit's functionality.  Professional leaders do not sit around in the mess chortling over stories about the serious problems people in their charge are having.

Call the Member Assistance Program.  It's there to help you and it will.
 

Staff Weenie

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Andrew - I cannot stress enough the need to get the proper care as soon as you can.

First off, I'll tell you a bit about my background, so you know I speak from experience. After a deployment (08/09), I was diagnosed with moderate to severe PTSD with dissociation, Major Depressive Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder. I went through hell trying to hide it from everybody until I was no longer functional at all. And, the truth of the matter was that those around me (family, friends, coworkers, supervisors and subordinates) had pretty much figured it all out anyway. By the time I got in to treatment, some of the behaviour and thought patterns had become pretty entrenched. At that point, it takes a lot of work to push through them to recovery.

As for any MELs the clinic assigns, that is all a CO can see - they do not get your diagnosis, or a list of medications, or a treatment plan. They get a list of limitations, and a notation on the duration they are in effect (i.e. 'Light Duties' for 2 weeks). The truth is, that most CO's are astute enough to know what those limitations relate to. However, it is a different world these days - give your chain of command, your peers, and your subordinates some credit - they most likely really do want to help, given even half a chance. If your GDMO were to discuss your case with your CO without your permission, their very license to practice medicine is at risk.

You can get through this, but it is going to take hard work on your part, and committment to the process. You need to do it because I'm guessing that you are still young enough to have decades of life ahead of you. With time and effort, you can enjoy those years with friends and family, and that is so much more important than hiding a painful condition to preserve a military career.

You've got the number for CFMAP, and that's a good start. Getting to the nearest support clinic is also a good start. Once you've got a diagnosis, and if it is PTSD or OSI, look in to OSISS (Operational Stress Injury Social Support) - it's a peer-based support group for people with OSI or PTSD. I still go to meetings every other week, and I find it very helpful.

You can send me a pm here on this site, or contact me at paul.barnshaw@forces.gc.ca (I work for DCSM/JPSU). I can also be reached during the day at 613-995-5085.

Look after yourself, and take the first step - you can do this!
 

BinRat55

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Andrew001 - there have a lot of good people posting good things for you here. I won't muddy the water for you - you have to do you. I will tell you this:

A year ago I was just about ready to pack it in. With the love and help of a friend, I made the really difficult decision to go to the MIR. I don't even know WHY it was difficult, but it was like looking at Mount Everest knowing I have to get to the top. I puked in the parking lot. Puked in the waiting room. I don't know why. Cried with the poor triage Cpl... i'm sure she is still traumatized... and spoke with an MO. A week later I did it all again down the road. It was rough.

I did it though. I'm still here. Doing ok too. We are not just the sum of our parts - the shit we do, see, feel, learn, know - make us stronger. Choose to choose, my friend - don't be pushed into pushing.

And I hate puking.
 

Ayrsayle

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Pusser said:
I can speak to this from the other side - the chain of command.  Let me assure you that it is in everyone's best interests to resolve these issues and the first step to resolution is to build trust.  First off the medical community is VERY guarded in what it tells the CoC.  As others have mentioned, the CoC will be informed of limitations, but that really is it.  I personally have been in situations where I have had to press the MO for more details, but that was for details on the limitations, not the cause of those limitations.  My concern was to ensure my personnel were employed properly and appropriately, while trying to balance both the individual's well being as well as the unit's functionality.  Professional leaders do not sit around in the mess chortling over stories about the serious problems people in their charge are having.

Call the Member Assistance Program.  It's there to help you and it will.

As an Adjutant in a Unit, what Pusser says on is absolutely true.  I occasionally speak with an MO, but usually to clarify restrictions on a member's MELs.  Every CoC that I've been a part of is primarily focused on "how can this member be effectively employed" and "what can be done to assist".  What you choose to reveal to the CoC is entirely up to you, but the vast majority of us have no interest in making a bad situation worse - we just hate not knowing what is going on and/or if we can assist.  Most of us can figure out what a MEL implies (by virtue of what is written on it), but they only talk about what a Member can and can't do, with absolutely nothing being said as to why it is the case.  MELs are also not common knowledge, they are kept to the CoC only.

This is your life however - just remember that it is your life and not the Army's and take whatever steps you need to, to get the help you have identified you need.
 
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