How to access care and access mental health services
Canadian Forces Health Services provides mental health care to CAF members at local CAF medical centres. The first point of contact for many CAF members who are experiencing mental health difficulties is their primary care clinician. Primary care clinicians will provide assessment and treatment of mental health issues or will refer the member to the most appropriate resource.
In the event of a crisis, or if a CAF member needs immediate care, mental health services can be accessed through walk-in service available at local CAF medical centres. Crisis services include:
- Triage and primary care assessment;
- Mental health nurse or social work crisis intervention; and
- Mental health intake assessment.
If care is needed after hours, CAF members are advised to contact their local hospital emergency department or, in the case of an immediate emergency, call 911.
Specialized mental health care
Canadian Forces Health Services offers specialized mental health care at two levels. The primary or first level of care is referred to as the Psychosocial Program. The second level is referred to as Mental Health Program.
The Psychosocial Program
The Psychosocial Program is available at all CAF medical clinics. Social workers, mental health nurses and addiction counselors normally staff the Psychosocial Program. CAF members may self-refer on a walk-in basis to the Psychosocial Program or be referred by a physician or others such as their supervisor or chaplain.
Types of services that are offered in the Psychosocial Program include:
- Brief Intervention: Short-term counseling services which may involve the service member and their family. Problems include adjustment difficulties, workplace issues, marriage or other family problems including family violence.
- Crisis Intervention: Mental health clinicians are available for crisis response on a walk-in basis and support primary care with crisis intervention.
- Addiction Consultation: Initial screening, education and consultation around alcohol, other drugs, or gambling.
- Information Services: CAF members may access a range of psycho-educational information through Psychosocial Program staff.
- Administrative Requests: Compassionate status, compassionate posting and contingency cost moves for personal reasons, or assessments for out of country postings.
- Pre/post deployment screenings: Prior to deployment all service members undergo a pre-deployment screening to determine deployment readiness. Upon completion of a deployment all service members will be directed to complete a post deployment screening questionnaire and interview.
The Mental Health Program
The Mental Health Program offers specialized mental health services to CAF members who are referred by their physician. Mental health care is provided by psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses, addictions counselors and health services chaplains. The Mental Health Program also provides specialized services such as Addiction Services and the Operational Trauma and Stress Support Program.
Addiction Services provides assessment and treatment to CAF members struggling with alcohol, drugs, and gambling, as well as other addictions. Patients are assessed by their primary care clinician who then works with an addiction counsellor to establish a plan of care and treatment based on the individual’s needs.
The Operational Trauma and Stress Support Program provides specialized assessment and treatment of Operation Stress Injuries (OSIs) focusing on the unique effects military service has on mental health.
Types of services that are offered in the Mental Health Program include:
- Assessment and diagnosis: A psychiatrist or psychologist will check for a broad range of mental health disorders including depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive and related disorders, substance use disorders, trauma, and stress-related disorders.
- Individual treatment: Individual treatment plans based on the needs of the patient include addiction treatment, trauma focused therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and others.
- Group treatment: Led by a professional therapist, individuals with the same diagnosis, issues, or concerns meet regularly. Therapy can be based on cognitive behavioral therapy; interpersonal group therapy or trauma focused such as cognitive processing therapy.
- Case conferencing: Primary care clinicians and mental health care specialists work together on treatment plans and decisions relating to medical employment limitations and the assignment of temporary medical categories. Regular communication and case conferencing ensure service members are receiving appropriate and timely care.
- Referrals: In cases where patients need treatment that is not offered at a CAF clinic, they are referred to appropriate civilian resources and care is coordinated with their physician and care team.
It is important for supervisors to create a workplace that encourages you to come forward and access mental health services. Some CAF members may be hesitant to get help with the belief that their commanding officer can access their medical file.
It is important to know that CAF members' medical information is private and only those involved in providing care have access to it. Commanding officers have a right to know your prognosis as well as any medical limitations which may affect work performance, however the nature or treatment of your injury or illness is confidential.
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