In This Together for Mental Health
There have been 48 reported Veteran and First Responder (Police, Fire, EMS) suicides this year, 25 of which have occurred since June. When you include Corrections Officers the number is even higher. This devastating reality is a concrete reminder of the fact that Operational Stress Injuries (OSI) know no bounds, no theatre of war, no critical incident, or emergency call. It reminds us that members of our uniformed services and their families are human, too – prone to the impacts of traumatic events that can manifest themselves immediately or over time.
Recently, a group of mental health researchers conducted Canada’s first national survey looking at mental health injuries amongst First Responders. Published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, the survey found that of the 5,813 participants, 44.5 per cent screened positive for clinically significant symptoms consistent with one or more mental disorders. When compared to the rate in the general population, which according to Statistics Canada is 10 per cent, this information presents a staggering reality for Canada.
The majority of our Veterans and First Responders experience a full career and make successful transitions to retirement. At the same, we at Wounded Warriors Canada also know this is not the case for everyone. When injuries are sustained, it doesn’t matter where, when or how they occurred. What matters is that the individuals and their family members know that we, as a country and community, are in this together – working to ensure they receive the help they so rightly deserve.
Being in this together, means everyone has a role to play. No one program, one policy or one organization will ever provide the 100% solution for our ill and injured Veterans, First Responders and their families. This issue demands a national effort that includes the respective chains of command; government and non-government sectors; the business community; professional associations; healthcare; and individual Canadians working together to make a difference.
Being in this together, demands a collaborative approach. It is about partnerships versus silos; supporting best practices versus duplication of effort; and, ultimately, working to ensure the very best mental health programs and services are available to our uniformed service members in need, when they need it.
It is in this spirit that we announce today, at a presentation to the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, a new initiative for Wounded Warriors Canada: In This Together. Over the last four years, we have been developing a mental health spectrum of care built on evidence-based, clinically derived programming that is changing and saving the lives and families of our ill and injured Veterans.
Through this process, we have encountered First Responders and other members of our domestic uniformed service in every region of Canada who have been dually impacted by Operational Stress Injuries. Through our engagement, we have identified that the need for mental health program support is far greater than what services are currently available and accessible. That is why last year we were proud to expand the scope and mission of Wounded Warriors Canada to include mental health program support for ill and injured First Responders and their families.
Today, we are pairing this expansion to our new initiative and we ask government and non-government stakeholders, the business community, health professionals and, indeed, all Canadians to join with us.
When it comes to the health and well-being of those who serve our country at home and abroad, we have to be in this together.
Wounded Warriors Canada