Mental Health Week
Ottawa - May 10, 2012
The Canadian Mental Health Association encourages Canadians to mark the first full week of May as Mental Health Week. This is an annual national event to encourage people from all walks of life to learn, talk, reflect and engage with others on all issues relating to mental health.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in every five Canadians will experience a mental health problem during the course of their lifetime. Over 10,000 clients of Veterans Affairs Canada are receiving treatment for a mental condition. Veterans are just a cross section of Canadian society who have seen and done extraordinary things in the service of their country. While mental health issues within the Veteran community are not tracked comprehensively, the rate among Veterans is influenced by the fact that Veterans often face additional stress and difficulties associated with the unique demands of service and when they transition to civilian life.
The Office believes that Veterans Affairs Canada should develop a way of tracking Veterans to provide some visibility on this issue as well as keeping Veterans apprised of changes to programs and services. As a better understanding of how to identify and treat the psychological effects of operations has evolved over the years, many Veterans who have served in previous decades are unaware of existing benefits and services. As well, only now is the stigma of having an operational stress injury starting to diminish, so many Veterans who previously have not wanted to come forward may be more receptive to receiving services today. A Veterans’ ID card may be the first step to identifying the potential unmet needs of the over 500,000 Veterans who are not clients of Veterans Affairs Canada.
Additionally, there has been a high operational tempo within the Canadian Forces over the past three decades with more operations being conducted by fewer service personnel resulting in many service members suffering from the cumulative effects of multiple deployments. The physical and mental health impact of these operations is only just now starting to become evident.
The administration of Veterans’ benefits needs to be considered a national security issue as how Veterans are looked after directly affects the Canadian Forces’ ability to recruit and retain Canada's best. The same can be said about the RCMP. When decisions are being made to put Canada’s sons and daughters into harm’s way, national security decision makers should be considering and allocating the resources necessary to Veterans Affairs Canada to deal with the future health-related consequences, both physical and mental, of those operations. The true impact of high intensity operations such as those in Afghanistan may not be seen for many years. Veterans Affairs Canada should already be considering the actions it needs to take to position itself to meet the current and future needs of these Veterans.
Aside from the moral obligation to meet the mental and physical needs of those who are injured in service to their country, the long term financial and social costs of inadequately addressing the service-related needs of Veterans and their families far outweighs the cost of what might have been spent to prevent a crisis. This week offers us an opportunity to consider the effects of mental health in our work place and in our homes. For Veterans and their families who are struggling with a difficult aftermath of service to their country, we owe a special debt as their sacrifices were made on behalf of all Canadian citizens. Let us all commit to making a real difference this year in the lives of those who struggle with mental illness.
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