Mental Health Week 2013

Ottawa - May 6, 2013

Today marks the beginning of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s 62nd Annual Mental Health Week. Every year at this time, Canadians are encouraged to engage and reflect on issues relating to mental health.

At least one in every three Canadians experience mental health issues each year, but this staggering number does not even begin to reflect the number of people touched by mental illness. All Canadians at some point will be affected, be it through a family member, a friend or a colleague.

The mental health of Veterans is of particular concern to me. In their service to Canadians and throughout their transition to civilian life, these individuals are exposed to situations that can affect them for many years to come. As of December 2012, 12% of the Department’s Veteran clients suffered from a psychiatric condition. Stated as a percentage it doesn’t sound like very many but it represents over 16,000 Veterans and does not account for the many Veterans and families who are undoubtedly suffering in silence. While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the most common psychiatric condition faced by Veterans, affecting 72% of those clients suffering from mental health issues, it is not the only one. The effects of service can manifest in many ways, including through anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. No different from a physical injury, mental illness drastically affects the quality of life of Veterans and their families.

With the increasing complexity of issues faced by our Veterans, the Department must ensure that the necessary resources and supports are in place to address their mental health needs including alternative methods of treatments such as equestrian therapy, service dogs, yoga and meditation, and peer support. Some Veterans in these programs are touting their positive effects on their quality of life. I hope to see the Department look into the effectiveness of these methods of treatment, and act to make them accessible to those in need.

I encourage anyone struggling with mental health issues to seek help and support. Recognizing a need and seeking help does not reflect weakness, but real courage. I urge anyone who is struggling and unaware of the supports available to them to call the Office.

The mental health issues Veterans are faced with should not be invisible to society. Together we must commit to recognizing and addressing the needs of those who sacrificed so much for us.


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