Today, in conjunction with Bell Let’s Talk Day General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff and acting Deputy Minister of National Defence Bill Jones addressed the unique mental health needs of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and their families.
Lawson encouraged members to take the time to educate themselves about mental health, and then move toward reducing the stigma of mental health in the workplace, at home and in communities.
“We each have a different experience and connection with mental illness, some very personal. And while some may be comfortable openly discussing mental health in public, others may prefer to have quiet conversations amongst friends and family,” acknowledged General Lawson.
The Defence Team, including members of the military and their families have recently been asked through social media to offer their opinions on how to reduce stigma in the case of mental health.
“Each and every one of us are part of the Defence Team, and we are here to support each other,” said General Lawson.
Taking a top-down approach Lawson gave recommended commanders, team leaders, and managers start talking openly about mental health at work. He recognized the conversations would not be easy as they could challenge preconceived ideas and ingrained traditions, but pointed out that even without personal experience, most people know someone who has struggled with mental health issues in their lifetime.
“We are proud of the work we have done so far to lower barriers to seeking care and reduce stigma, but there is certainly more work to be done. We all need to continue to be aware of and address mental health issues as soon as they arise,” said Minister Jones. “We have a collective responsibility to watch for changes in behaviour in our brothers and sisters in arms, our colleagues, our friends, and our family members. We encourage those in need to reach out immediately. Help is available from health clinics, from the employee and member assistance programs and, in emergencies, at your local emergency room or by calling 911.”
Finally, the two encouraged the entire Defence Team to participate in the Bell Let’s Talk initiative. On January 28 every text message sent, wireless call and long distance call made by Bell and Bell Aliant customers, and every time someone joins the Let’s Talk campaign on Facebook or Twitter, Bell will contribute five cents more to programs dedicated to mental health.
Thus far, Bell has committed over $67.5 million to support a wide range of mental health organizations, large and small, from coast to coast to coast across Canada.
Visit the Bell Let’s Talk website to find out more about how you can participate in this important initiative and read General Lawson and acting Deputy Minister of National Defence Bill Jones full statement.