Let’s get real about mental health | A message from your Defence Team Mental Health co-Champions

May 4, 2020 – Defence Stories

Events in recent weeks have impacted Defence Team members, our families, and all Canadians.

We are still trying to comprehend the loss of our six Defence Team colleagues last week, a tragedy that came only a short time after the terrible events that occurred in Nova Scotia.

Even as we process what has happened, we are all dealing with the ongoing reality of adapting our daily lives and routines to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

As we navigate through these challenging times together, it’s important to acknowledge that it is ok for us to experience a range of emotions. It’s equally important that we do what is within our control to help maintain and improve our mental health.

May 4-10th marks Canada’s annual Mental Health Week (MHW) and as your Mental Health co-Champions, we feel there is no better time to emphasize the importance of maintaining positive mental health than now.

Here are some suggestions and resources to help you do that:

The Defence Team COVID-19 - Mental Health web page is a useful resource for information about how to take care of your mental health during the outbreak. It provides an overview of the services and support that are available to Defence Team members, whether military or civilian.

Practically speaking, your well-being starts with taking care of yourself. Be kind to yourself, practice routine check-ins, and if you’re able—check-in on those around you as well. Connecting with other people and your community doesn’t just feel good—it’s good for your mental health. So, while we need to keep our physical distance, staying in touch via text, video conferences, or a good old-fashioned phone call will help ensure that we maintain our crucial social connections.

Your physical fitness is also extremely important. With gyms closed, we are all having to find ways to keep active—both for health and as an outlet for stress and frustration. It’s been amazing to see and hear about all the different innovative ways people are incorporating exercise into their day.

We also encourage you to stay connected with colleagues and reach out to leadership as you feel the need. Your contributions are valued in all forms—whether you are working on-site, working from home, or staying safe at home.

Throughout MHW—and on a regular basis for that matter - we encourage you to follow the official DND/CAF social media accounts and regularly check The Maple Leaf for the latest updates on COVID-19 and mental health, including engagement opportunities to have your mental health-related questions answered by an expert.

Language matters. It’s common in our society to ask people how they are. Unfortunately, it’s also common not to provide—or expect—a truthful answer. As we deal with the aftermath of recent tragic events and face the COVID-19 global pandemic together, we need each other now more than ever, so it’s time to #GetReal about how we feel and lean on others for support. This Mental Health Week, let’s say more than just “I’m fine.” Let’s have real conversations with our family, friends, neighbours, and coworkers about how we’re all really doing. We are all in this together.

Please know that whether you are a member of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) or a Department of National Defence (DND) employee, there are resources available to you. Talk to your manager, see your doctor, or seek out the employee and member assistance programs. If you need immediate medical attention, please call 911.

Whether you or a loved one has been directly impacted by these challenging times, or you’re simply having a difficult time coping, we extend our deepest sympathies, and will continue to stand strong as a united Defence Team.

Take care, and please don’t forget - you are not alone!

Jody Thomas
Deputy Minister
Mental Health co-Champion

LGen Jean-Marc Lanthier
Vice Chief of the Defence Staff
Mental Health co-Champion

Jerry Ryan
President of the Federal Government Dockyard Trade and Labour Council East
Mental Health co-Champion

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