(Left to right) Erica French, MH Clerk; Wanda Ziebarth, MH Clerk; and Lt Krista Erickson, Social Work Officer. (Submitted photo)

Mental Health Services and the Canadian Armed Forces

By: Lt Krista Erickson

Posted on Thursday February 1, 2018

Taking care of the health and well-being of soldiers and their families is a top priority for the Canadian Armed Forces. Given the high tempo and level of stress that is often a part of military careers, mental health services is a vital resource for members and reaching out for help is the first step towards improving overall wellness.

A multidisciplinary team of social workers, mental health nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists and a chaplain at Garrison Petawawa provide a variety of psychosocial and mental health services for members, including:
• Clinical intervention services
• Counselling services for individuals and couples
• Drug/alcohol/gambling addiction counselling for individuals and groups
• Assessment, individual or group treatment for members suffering from a broad range of mental health issues including depression, anxiety, trauma, and those suffering from an operational stress injury
• Pre/post deployment screenings
• Information services for CAF members on a range of psycho-educational topics

In addition to these services, there are also a number of local organizations working with service members and their families in crisis situations.

There is a misconception that getting help may be a long and complicated process, may have negative implications on one’s career, or may be viewed as a sign of weakness among one’s colleagues or friends. In fact, getting access to mental health services is easy and can be done on a walk-in basis. Once a member seeks support at the clinic through their physician or the intake worker, the process will begin to refer the member for the appropriate services. As with all medical issues, the information is kept confidential.

It is well known that stigma creates a barrier for people to feel comfortable talking about mental health and personal struggles. One way to help tear down this wall is by talking about the signs of mental illness and the resources available. If you know someone who may need help, you could be the one to encourage them simply by knowing what services are out there. The longer people wait to seek help, the longer they may be living with a mental health issue that can be treated.

Bell’s “Let’s Talk” Day is a reminder of the fact that mental health affects us all. Let’s open a discussion that promotes awareness and acceptance for those who need it in our community.