October 5, 2020 – Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces / Veterans Affairs Canada
The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, today issued the following statement in support of Mental Illness Awareness Week:
“This week we mark Mental Illness Awareness Week and the third anniversary of the Joint Suicide Prevention Strategy. This week, we observe an annual national public education campaign to raise awareness and decrease the stigma associated with mental illness.
“We recognize the tremendous sacrifices Canadian Armed Forces members make, and Veterans have made in service to our country. We also thank their families for their continuous support and sacrifice. Our members’ health is our priority, and we are committed to ensuring that our military personnel and those who have served Canada receive the highest standard of health care and support for mental illness.
“The first step to getting help for mental illness is identifying the need. Engaging in Mental Illness Awareness Week will help us all learn more about how to recognize the signs of mental illness in ourselves, or those around us, whether it’s a family member, friend, or a colleague. As well, restrictions in physical, in-person interactions with others during the global COVID-19 pandemic have introduced new challenges for many of those suffering from mental illness, and that is why it is more important than ever to know about the resources available.
“Mental illness cannot be tackled alone: we would like to thank the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, and the Canadian Mental Health Association, for their contributions to informing Canadians about the reality of mental illness.
“Our message to Canadian Armed Forces members, Veterans, and their families is this: continue to educate yourself on recognizing mental illness in yourself and others, connect with each other, and most importantly, reach out for help. There are many resources available to all of you, you do not have to do it alone. By standing together and supporting each other, we can end the stigma surrounding mental illness.”
- If you or someone you know requires emergency mental health assistance, please call 911 or accompany them—or have someone accompany you—to your local emergency department.
- For less urgent needs, help is available to military personnel at the nearest Canadian Armed Forces health clinic. Serving members, Veterans, and civilian employees of the Department of National Defence can call 1-800-268-7708 for the Canadian Armed Forces Member Assistance Program, the Veterans Affairs Canada Assistance Service, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and the EAP peer referral service. All these services are free of charge and available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) has a well-established national network of approximately 12,000 community mental health professionals who deliver mental health services to eligible Veterans and serving and released Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers with post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health conditions. Additional VAC services include a network of 11 operational stress injury clinics across the country. These clinics are complemented by the Canadian Armed Forces network of seven Operational Trauma and Stress Support Centres, which cater primarily to currently serving military personnel.
- The Veterans Affairs Canada-Canadian Armed Forces Operational Stress Injury Social Support program provides peer-based support to those suffering with operational stress injuries and their families. The program employs full-time peer support and family peer support coordinators, and also has a well-developed volunteer training and mentoring program.
EAP peer referral service (accessible only on the Department of National Defence network)