Reaching out for help was a common message from panelists at the Canadian Armed Forces Mental Health Panel Discussion for Bell Let’s Talk Day on Wed. Jan. 30.
The panelists for the fifth annual CAF Mental Health Panel Discussion included Bell Let’s Talk Ambassador and former CAF member Bruno Guévremont, DND Co-Champion for Mental Health Jerry Ryan, Commodore Chris Sutherland, LCol. David Coker, Cpl. Travis Weird, Petty Officer 2nd Class Chevonne Fisher, and Chimene Jewer, clinical psychologist with CAF.
Panelists took questions from the audience and social media on a host of topics relating to their mental health journey, resources available, and CAF policies on mental health.
Members shared what helped them with their own mental health struggles including reaching out to Padres and surrounding themselves with a strong social support system.
Audience members and all the CAF members listening in were reassured that if they decide to seek help, the CAF’s clinic maintains a strict policy of confidentially and privacy.
The panelists also made it a point to emphasize the role of family members in the CAF’s recovery process and the importance of involving them every step of the way.
“There’s nothing harder for a family member or spouse to look at you and see you suffer and not be able to do anything,” said Guévremont.
Panelists and audience members all agreed that family members play a vital role.
“The minute you step outside the gate the only people that are going to be there for you are your family,” added Guévremont.
Many of the members including Commodore Chris Sutherland stressed the importance for family members to also take care of themselves.
“You have to take care of yourself independent (of the member) sometimes so you can be available for them,” said Sutherland.
Guévremont discussed how family members can often get “second-hand PTSD” from taking care of others who have mental health issues and start developing similar symptoms.
Military Family Resource Centres also have a number of resources available for spouses and families including couple counselling, family counselling, and one-to-one counselling. These services are cost-free and confidential.
Even though this was the signature event the CAF puts on for Bell Lets Talk Day, a number of other events were held across bases and elements.
Personnel Support Programs put on events such as panel discussions, information kiosks, commander addresses, and social media campaigns.