In an unprecedented move the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) invited media to observe and record an open panel discussion on mental health in support of Bell Let’s Talk’s campaign against stigma surrounding mental illness on Wednesday.
Partnering with Bell, the Department of National Defence and the CAF were proud to support this important initiative to continue the conversation around mental health and the stigma attached to mental illness.
“[Seeking treatment] is the most courageous thing I’ve ever had to do. If you break a leg, you’re going to go get a cast. Mental injuries should be the same way. The system does work. If you use the system to your advantage, use all the resources that are there, are honest with yourself, honest with your therapist and doctors, it will work. I feel great. I should have done this 20 years ago,” said Major Réjean Richard.
Members of the panel included Andrew Jensen, Professional Golfer and Bell Let’s Talk Ambassador, Master Warrant Officer Jason Pickard, Major Réjean Richard, and Lieutenant-Colonel Suzanne Bailey, CAF Senior Social Worker. The event was moderated by Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Perreault, Commandant, Canadian Forces Language School, and CTV Ottawa News at 6 anchor Graham Richardson.
Attendees were senior leaders form the Defence Team, including numerous General and Flag Officers, Command Chief Warrant Officers, and wide representation from civilian employees and military personnel of all ranks from within the National Capital Region.
“All of us, in our day-to-day lives, we see people and we say how are you. Too often, we don’t actually listen for the response or take the time to stop and let the person know that we really, genuinely want to know how they’re doing. So I think it’s about taking that pause and really connecting with people, because it’s when you spend time with them and listen to them, that they feel that they have that opportunity to be honest and connect with you,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Suzanne Bailey, CAF Senior Social Worker.
Questions were sought from CAF members through social media prior to the campaign, and members in Ottawa were invited to attend the discussion to ask questions of their own.
Questions asked included the subject of military families and how these families might be included in the mental health treatment of a loved one. Consideration was also given to those who have yet to self-identify due to stigma.
Prior to the panel discussion Canadians were asked to share ideas for stigma reduction through the Canadian Armed Force’s Facebook page. Their posts were supportive and encouraging.
One Facebook post read, “There exists a culture within all armed services, whereby seeking help is seen as weak. Personnel need to know that they can seek assistance without fear of any sort of reprisal including threat of diminished career advancement, being seen as untrustworthy or ‘not having your comrades back.”
The fifth annual Bell Let’s Talk Day on Wednesday, January 28, 2015, invited all Canadians to help end the stigma surrounding mental illness and support mental health initiatives around the country by talking, texting, and tweeting about mental health.
If you or someone you know requires emergency mental health assistance, seek help through your health care provider, your local emergency department or call 911.
Help is also available by calling the CAF Member Assistance Program at 1-800-268-7708 (open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year) or going to the nearest CAF health clinic or civilian emergency health care centre.