It has been a distressing year for many Canadian military families and the holiday season can amplify mental health issues.
On behalf of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), Emily Gauthier, communications-media relations VAC, says that they are aware of the challenging time many Afghanistan Veterans have faced this year, and any Afghanistan Veteran and Veteran that is struggling does not need to cope alone.
“We have and will continue to reach out directly to Afghanistan Veterans and Veterans groups, through direct communication, via My VAC Account, and through external channels, including on social media, with information to ensure they know support is available. VAC is also reaching out to at-risk Veterans who served in Afghanistan to offer additional support and services,” she added.
Services Available Through VAC
Veterans and their families can access help through various services:
The department has about 12,000 registered mental health professionals across Canada who provide mental health services to Veterans.
The VAC Assistance Service has a 24/7 helpline, psychological and bereavement support, and referral services available to all Veterans and their families. Call 1-800-268-7708 to speak to a mental health professional for psychological support.
Operational Stress Injury Clinics
As needed, the Network of Operational Stress Injury Clinics offers veterans and their family members treatment. They provide in-person and virtual mental health assessment and treatment to address service-related mental health issues or interfere with rehabilitation. To request a possible referral, veterans can send a secure message via their My VAC Account or call 1-866-522-2122.
The Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) offers peer support to Veterans and families who are impacted by an operational stress injury.
The Veteran Family Program is available to families of released and releasing CAF members offering continued access to the Military Family Resource Centres and to a suite of transition-support programs and services, including group sessions on transition topics and mental health first aid courses.
Sevices for Serving Personnel and Families
In addition to VAC’s listed services, the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Eyre, in his letter addressing the fall of Panjwai, provided a list of services for current members and their families as well as veterans and their families.
Current Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and families Services
Mental health care and a range of support services provided at Canadian Forces Health Services primary care clinics across Canada are accessible to CAF members. These services are also available for those deployed.
Member Assistance Program (CFMAP) is a confidential advisory and referral service that is external to the CAF and available to members and their families by phone 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week at 1-800-268-7708.
Spiritual guidance and support are also available through military chaplains.
Information on these and other medical and mental health care and support services for military members and their families are available on the Military Mental Health “You’re Not Alone” web page here.
Veterans and families’ Services
VAC Assistance Service is available 24/7 for veterans and their families. Call 1-800-268-7708 (TDD/TYY: 1-800-567-5803) to talk to a mental health professional.
More information on counselling services, peer support, and free online resources for Veterans and families can be found in the Mental health and wellness section of the Veterans Affairs Canada website.