Canadian Army embraces Bell’s annual Let’s Talk mental health campaign

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Article / January 27, 2016 / Project number: 16-1013

Mental health is a complex topic but the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) uses a very simple phrase to remind members of its ongoing commitment to their psychological well-being: “You’re not alone.”

Bell’s annual Let’s Talk campaign is also focused on removing the stigma that surrounds mental health and encourages Canadians at large to not suffer in isolation. The two organizations joined forces for a wide-ranging panel discussion on mental health, held January 27 at 4th Canadian Division Support Base Petawawa in Ontario.

Moderated by Kevin Newman, a correspondent and co-host on the award-winning CTV investigative series W5, the event also featured musician Séan McCann. Formerly of Great Big Sea, Mr. McCann’s most recent release, Help Your Self, deals in part with his own struggles with the trauma of sexual abuse and alcoholism. Also in attendance was Colonel Conrad Mialkowski, Commander of Petawawa-based 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group.

Said Col Mialkowski, “I think it’s important to us as military folks because, we always believe that people are our strength, despite the advances in technology and changes in modern warfare, at the end of the day, it’s the men and women in uniform that are either going to make or break battles. And to that end, having folks who are resilient and strong in mental health is just as important as being resilient and strong in physical health.”

Among the panelists were Majors Michele McCashion and Janice Magar from 2 Field Ambulance and Master Warrant Officer Anthony Jones, Company Sergeant Major, 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment.

Asked by a member of the audience how he felt senior officers should encourage soldiers to come forward to talk about mental health issues, MWO Jones said “an ‘open-door policy’ should be just that. When they say it, they should mean it.” That also means giving soldiers the time and space to vent frustrations, he added.

The military is unique from other areas of the public service, MWO Jones said, in that soldiers share unique experiences. That common ground can be the basis for mutually-supportive relationships, he added.

“As soldiers we’re different,” MWO Jones said. “We have a common bond.”

Corporal Benoit LaChance, one of the soldiers in attendance at the event, noted, “This is an important event because it concerns soldiers, their families and Canadians. It is important that these people know the CAF supports them. When we ask for help from our superiors, we feel supported by our chain of command.”

Canadian Army (CA) personnel are encouraged to share any mental health concerns with the primary care physicians working in their local medical clinics. CAF physicians can refer them to the appropriate mental health programs. These include general mental health services, peer support programs and the Operational Trauma and Stress Support Program, which assists members and their families with stresses due to military operations.

Soldiers can also refer themselves to psychosocial program services such as addictions consultation, short-term counseling and crisis intervention. More information on CA health resources can be found at the MISSION: Ready website.

Bell Let’s Talk launched in September 2010 as a five-year, $50 million program directed at four action pillars: anti-stigma, care and access, new research and workplace leadership. It has funded more than 600 partner organizations in every region of Canada and has been extended a further five years with $100 million in new funding.

Reporting on their first five years of results, Bell says that 81 percent of Canadians say they are more aware of mental health issues than five years ago and 70 percent believe attitudes have improved.

During the 2016 campaign, Bell donates five cents for each long-distance or wireless call made by participating Bell Canada and Bell Aliant customers. Donations are also made for every Facebook share of the Let’s Talk Day image at Facebook.com/BellLetsTalk and every Tweet using the #BellLetsTalk hashtag.

By Steve Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

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