According to Dr Richard Nahas, the most recent survey of the Canadian Armed Forces reported that 1 in 4 CAF veterans have been diagnosed with one or more mental disorders. Let’s check out the growing mental health problems among veterans and how they can seek help.
- PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was first codified in the US in 1980 after the Vietnam War. In the past, this disorder had other names including “soldier’s heart”, “shell shock” and more. While anyone who survives violent events like terror attacks, war or disasters may develop PTSD, it is especially prevalent among veterans due to recurring exposure to violent deaths and injuries. Veterans who suffer from PTSD experience, nightmares, heightened emotions, anxiety and hypervigilance.
- Depression – Depression is also very common among veterans. The military environment is a catalyst for both the development and progression of depression. Soldiers who are separated from their loved ones in an unknown land thousands of kilometres away are always in harm’s way and see others going through the same thing. There’s also the constant stress of combat that increases the risk of depression among active duty and veteran populations.
- Suicide – Suicide in the Canadian military is more prevalent compared to civilians. Among male veterans, death by suicide is 1.4 times higher compared to other men and in female veterans, the number climbs up to 1.9 times. The suicide rate for male veterans is 3.8 times higher compared to female veterans.
- Substance use disorders – Substance abuse disorders (SUDs) including alcohol use are also a sustained problem among both active military personnel and veterans. Alcohol is often used by this population for stress relief and socializing. Research suggests that around 20 per cent of deaths are due to high-risk behaviour and 320 per cent of suicides among veterans are directly linked to drug or alcohol abuse.
- Helpful resources – With increasing mental health problems among veterans, it is important that the subject gets more attention from the general public so that more helpful programs can be developed. If you are a veteran and are suffering from mental health issues, it is important to seek help.
Peer support is very important, and you can participate in it by visiting the OSISS website. The Operational Stress Injury Social Support is a peer support network for CAF members, veterans and their families. If you suffer from PTSD, you can download the free PTSD Coach Canada app on your phone to help manage symptoms, seek professional help and connect with peers. On the other hand, you can call 1-800-268-7708 any time of the day to get counselling from the Member Assistance Program if you’re having suicidal tendencies.
Dr Richard Nahas believes that there needs to be more discussion about the mental health of veterans. Veterans need to seek out help by using the above-mentioned resources so that tragedies can be avoided. Moreover, there’s a need for more public attention so that more funds can be pumped into mental health research and care for veterans.