Health and Wellness

Reducing Mental Illness Stigma in the CAF through Frank and Open Dialogue

For decades, Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH), has shed a spotlight on the reality of mental illness. This year, from Oct. 2 to Oct. 8, MIAW is once again seeking to de-stigmatize mental illness, and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) intends to do its part this week for its soldiers.

“Mental Illness Awareness Week is an important opportunity to promote dialogue about mental illness and the resources available for those in need. Together with our civilian partners, we are continually expanding our research and understanding of mental illness to enhance our care to those impacted by it. I encourage everyone to participate in the discussion about mental illness and to do their part to reduce stigma and encourage access to care,” said BGen. Hugh MacKay, Surgeon General.

According to statistics, one in five Canadians will suffer a mental illness during their lifetime. Many members of the CAF are faced with various forms of mental illness including Operational Stress Injuries like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

To provide CAF personnel with care and support, out of the 37 primary care clinics 31 have specialized mental health services. Additionally, there are seven Operational Trauma and Stress Support Centres.

The CAF also seeks to further understand and treat mental illness through the annual Canadian Military and Veteran Health Research Forum. This year’s forum will be held in Vancouver, BC from Nov. 21-23.

As part of this week’s campaign, the Department of National Defence (DND) and the CAF hope to spread the word on the need to get help and the resources available through Facebook, Twitter, and email.

“Senior military leadership at both the national and local levels are encouraging frank and open dialogue regarding mental illness, and profiling mental fitness and suicide awareness courses as part of the Strengthening the Forces program,” stated a DND/CAF press release.

For its campaign this year, once again, CAMIMH has launched the Faces of Mental Illness Campaign that highlights outstanding members in society that also battle with a mental illness.

To learn more about MIAW and the Faces of Mental Illness Campaign visit the CAMIMH website.

Military members (Regular Force, all Reserve Class Members, Cadets) and their immediate family members can contact the Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program at 1-800-268-7708.

Military families can also receive assistance via the Family Information Line (FIL) which is a 24/7 service that offers support to families by connecting them to counsellors who can then connect families to local resources. Call the FIL at 1-800-866-4546 or 1-613-995-5234.

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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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