The challenges facing Veterans, including serving military and RCMP members, both while serving and after release, are widespread and have uniquely developed through the roles and responsibilities they take on while in service. Some Veterans have suffered grave wounds, loss of colleagues and friends, operational stress injuries, mental health challenges including PTSD, and difficulties transitioning to civilian life. To compound the challenge, Veterans may face a stigma around mental illness that is persistent in the military and RCMP culture. Admitting to mental illness for some may mean loss of job responsibilities, career growth and even respect among peers within the military community. Those that do seek help often have further trouble in seeking accurate diagnosis, appropriate treatment and lack of follow up.
It’s time to dissolve the stigma that surrounds mental illness and ensure Canada’s Veterans can seek help, without shame or fear of reprisal, and get the help they need when they need it, for as long as they need it. The Government of Canada has an obligation to ensure Canada’s ill and injured Veterans and their families receive the highest care, support and lifelong financial security.
It is clear there is urgent need for the Government to research and develop a comprehensive mental health and suicide prevention strategy. Standards of care for our Veterans must improve. Mental illness education, counselling and training is desperately needed for Veterans, their families and support network. And it is imperative that the Government de-stigmatize mental health in the military and Veteran community and ensure policies and practices treat mental illness as they would a physical injury. For all of these deficiencies, the Legion has been advocating for immediate and substantial improvement in government research, programs and policy around mental health for Veterans.
To further mental health for Veterans, there also is an urgent need for an increased focus on research. The Legion is affiliated with leading mental health organizations and regularly reviews research to better understand the needs, challenges and opportunities facing Veterans. Research is needed to understand the causes, impact of and treatment for mental illness. The Government must ensure research is a priority for Veteran care.
In addition to pushing Government to conduct research to support treatment programs and policies, the Legion financially supports research initiatives for Veterans. In 2015, the Legion proudly donated $1 million to The Royal to help open Canada’s first brain-imaging centre exclusively dedicated to mental health research. This research will help diagnose and develop treatment options, with an additional focus on the unique challenges facing Canada’s Veterans. The Legion also supports research by awarding an annual Master’s level scholarship through the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) to a student specializing in Military and Veterans Health Research. Ongoing, focussed research is critical for the care and support of Canada’s Veterans.
Many of Canada’s Veterans, including serving military and RCMP, and their families are struggling with mental health issues, and they need our support. There is lack of research, education, policies and programs to support them, and this must be rectified. Veterans served and sacrificed for our country, and it is our duty to now stand for them and ensure they have access to the care and support they need.