Military will encourage soldiers to discuss combat stress

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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OTTAWA - The Canadian military will launch a campaign Thursday to bring the suffering of mental illness - particularly post-traumatic stress disorder - out of the shadows.
But just like the individuals who struggle to openly discuss what ails them, the Department of National Defence wrestled with whether the awareness campaign would be made public or aimed strictly at military personnel.
Notice of the long-planned event, at which members of the Forces will lay bare their struggles, only came out Wednesday after intense internal discussion in the wake of last week's House of Commons defence committee report. That report recommended military leadership publicly fight off the stigma that exists among soldiers over PTSD.
The launch of the awareness campaign occurs against the background of the ongoing military police investigation into the suspected suicide of Maj. Michelle Mendes in Afghanistan last April.The campaign's message that it's "alright to hurt" won't be difficult for Gen. Walter Natynczyk to deliver.
His concern for the well-being of the soldiers, sailors and aircrew who've put themselves in harm's way is well known in military circles. But as an organization built on bullet-proof toughness, the Canadian Forces has grappled with conceding the frailties of human beings.
Outside organizations such as the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Mental Health Commission of Canada will be among the pillars of the campaign aimed at a "better sharing of ideas" on stress disorders, said a defence insider.
It's expected more resources will be set aside to further expand the number of Joint Personnel Support Units, which allow soldiers to seek one-stop service for injuries.
National Defence said it's committed to expanding and enriching programs aimed at preventing, identifying and treating mental health issues.
The Commons committee, in its exhaustive year-long study, recommended that not only the "prejudice of mental illness" be expelled from military culture but that leaders be better trained to spot PTSD and deal with it among the rank and file.

Organizations: Department of National Defence, House of Commons, Canadian Forces Canadian Mental Health Association Mental Health Commission of Canada Joint Personnel Support Units National Defence Commons committee

Geographic location: OTTAWA, Afghanistan

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