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Archived - Government of Canada takes action to support mental health needs of military members, veterans, and their families
The Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are taking action to improve the mental health of CAF members and their families. Canada’s women and men in uniform are among the best in the world. Yet no military member is immune to the effects of combat, and the demanding rigours of military life can be a source of mental and emotional stress for the military community.
The Government of Canada has committed to providing an additional investment of approximately $200 million over the next six years and an additional $16.7 million ongoing that will enable greater support to serving members of the CAF, veterans, and for their families.
The CAF continues to strive to conduct research and improve preventive measures and clinical care related to mental illness for the benefit not only of CAF members and their families, but all Canadians.
The Government of Canada recognizes that the best possible mental and emotional health is crucial for the overall well-being of soldiers. These efforts and initiatives represent the latest in the DND and the CAF’s continued commitment to the mental health needs of members, veterans and their families.
Complete digitization of health records:
- We will invest in the personnel and technology to completely digitize the health records of all serving personnel. We work hard to return our ill and injured personnel to duty so that they can continue with their military careers. But when that is not possible, we tailor and individualize our transition support.
- Through enhanced staffing capacity, the medical files of medically releasing CAF personnel can be shared more rapidly with VAC, improving the process of applying for benefits from VAC for transitioning members.
- This enhanced digitization initiative supports the recommendation by the Office of the Auditor General Audit of Transition in 2012.
Investing in brain imaging technology:
- Working with partners, DND/CAF will acquire high-resolution brain imaging technology to be used exclusively for mental health purposes. This technology will allow clinicians to distinguish a brain affected by post-traumatic stress disorder.
Support to Families
Augmenting mental health peer support programs:
- Peer support will be enhanced by supplying additional staff to the Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) program.
- The program provides outreach and confidential peer support, provided by CAF veterans who have overcome their mental illness, to other CAF members and veterans, and their families. It is an important tool for CAF members and veterans’ families seeking immediate assistance, with no requirements for referrals.
- This peer support network builds on strategies from the civilian mental health care system to show examples of successful treatment and reduce mental health stigma.
Extending access to Military Family Resource Centres:
- Families play a critical role in supporting CAF members. With that in mind, the CAF will launch a pilot project to extend access to the Military Family Support program. The project will be initiated on a trial basis by permitting access at seven Military Family Resource Centres (MFRCs) to ill and injured Veterans after release so that their families can continue to benefit from these great resources in familiar environments. This new initiative will enable access to the resource centres by eligible Veterans for an additional two years after they release from the CAF. The extension of the program to other MFRCs will be evaluated based on the results of the initial pilot project.
- Military Family Resource Centres, located at bases and wings across the country and in overseas CAF stations, enrich our military community through action, education and support.
They provide specialized programs uniquely tailored to suit the challenges that military families experience. These programs and services empower and encourage strong independent individuals and families.
- Additional investments in research will help find better treatments, promote faster recoveries, and achieve better outcomes for serving members and veterans with mental health conditions and their families.
- Investing in technology and research is essential to better understanding veteran suicides, improving the recognition, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in veterans, improving the care and treatment of and injured CAF members and Veterans.
Treatment and Education
Increasing mental health education and awareness:
- The CAF will hire additional staff to more broadly deliver the Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR) mental health education campaign. This education platform is the cornerstone of mental health education in the CAF and is designed to provide servicemen and women, and their families, with the knowledge and skills required to manage their own reactions to stress, to recognize mental duress and to seek assistance, professional or peer, when required.
- This program also helps increase CAF member and family resilience to mental illness and injury, promotes awareness of mental health treatments, and continues the campaign to reduce stigma associated with mental health.
Mental health is complex and its maintenance is critical to the CAF - these initiatives will strengthen the already strong mental health program the CAF has in place to provide dedicated and responsive care for CAF members and emphasizes the elimination of the barriers to mental healthcare. With our civilian and international partners, the DND and the CAF are committed to ongoing mental health education and research to continuously enhance the CAF’s mental health program, thus helping improve the lives of military personnel, veterans, and by extension, all Canadians who suffer mental illness.
These new initiatives, developed collaboratively by DND, VAC and Health Canada, reflect the most innovative thinking and evidence-based approaches to mental health and suicide prevention, leading to world-class care and treatment for mental health illness and injury for CAF members, veterans, and their families.
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