Mental Illness Awareness Week - Reach Out

October 7, 2019 — Defence Stories

October 6 to 12 is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and the Defence Team is joining with organizations and individuals across the country to raise awareness about this treatable illness that far too often goes undiagnosed because of fear of social stigma.

Seeking help for mental illness should be seen as a sign of strength rather than weakness, and we all have a role to play in encouraging open discussions about mental health and mental illness. If you need help, reach out. If you think that a colleague, friend or family member is suffering, ask if they are okay and offer your support. That one gesture can make a big difference in their life.

Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and their families face stressors such as postings, military training and operations, deployments and, generally, pressure from being part of an organization tasked with defending the nation. These stressors can have an impact on mental health, but the fear of stigma associated with mental illness can be a barrier to CAF members getting help. This must change.

The transition process from military to civilian life is also known to be a stressful time of life. To combat this, services are readily available to CAF members going through transition.

Mental illness comes in many forms – including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – and can affect anyone. The Department of National Defence (DND) and the CAF are committed to strengthening our programs and support services to meet the evolving needs of our team members.

October 5 marked the second anniversary of the Joint Suicide Prevent Strategy, a collaborative effort of the CAF and Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), for which mental illness awareness is central. Accomplishments of this strategy over the last year include the addition of psychologists and psychiatrists to treat members, technological improvements to facilitate remote counselling, and providing mental skills training and performance coaching to members in high-stress occupations.

CAF mental health programs and services are available on the You’re Not Alone website, while DND civilian employees and their families can access the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), as well as other tools and resources on the Mental Health and Well-Being intranet site.

Both the Canadian Forces Members Assistance Program and Health Canada’s Employee Assistance Services for civilian federal government employees are available 24/7 by calling 1-800-268-7708 (or 1-800-567-5803 for the hearing impaired). If you have thoughts of suicide, help is immediately available by calling 911.

‪Mental Illness Awareness Week was established in 1992 by the Canadian Psychiatric Association, and is now coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health. For more information, visit the organization’s website.

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