Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

April 30, 2013 10:04 ET

Minister MacKay Announces Mental Health Initiatives for Canadian Armed Forces Personnel

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - April 30, 2013) - The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, announced two new health services initiatives, the Telemental Health Network and the Virtual Reality Initiative Bravemind, developed through the $11.4 million reallocated to the care of ill and injured military personnel in 2012. Minister MacKay made this announcement as part of The Bell True Patriot Love Fund, a one-million dollar program to support community mental health initiatives for Canadian military families.

"The Telemental Health Network and the Virtual Reality Initiative Bravemind complement an already robust system to provide treatment for our military men and women who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other health conditions," said Minister MacKay. "The Bell True Patriot Love Fund initiative complements our Government's focus on providing accessible mental health care to Canadian Armed Forces personnel. As Canadians we must all work together to ensure our military families stay healthy and get the mental health support they need."

The Telemental Health Network will maximize the use of technology to increase access and reduce wait times by providing mental health services through video conferencing for personnel in all environments - especially rural, remote and underserved communities. The Government of Canada has procured 90 high-definition desktop videoconferencing systems at a total cost of $800 000. Through the Virtual Reality Initiative, the Canadian Armed Forces will explore the use of virtual reality in the exposure therapy phase for the treatment of illnesses such as post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders. Canadian Forces Health Services have procured a virtual reality headset system that runs the Bravemind software and clinical training and evaluation will be conducted throughout spring 2013. The virtual reality system was procured at a cost of approximately $20 000. If the trial is a success, there will be a requirement to adapt the software to reflect Canadian Armed Forces simulated environments.

"The Telemental Health Network delivers evidence-based and life-like mental health consultation by using high quality desktop videoconferencing systems with extraordinary visual and audio capabilities," said Brigadier-General Jean-Robert Bernier, the Surgeon General. "Canadian Forces Health Services is committed to evidence-based care and a virtual reality headset system that runs the Bravemind software appears to have great potential for use in the Canadian Armed Forces. Virtual reality is the natural extension of traditional exposure therapies and we are hoping that it appeals to today's technology-savvy soldier and that it maximizes the benefits of the care they receive."

The Government of Canada remains committed to enhancing mental health services for the Canadian Armed Forces. On September 12, 2012, Minister MacKay reallocated an additional $11.4 million, for a yearly total of $50 million, to enhance the Canadian Armed Forces' robust mental health programs and ensure that military personnel continue to receive the highest standard of services possible, wherever and whenever they serve.

Notes to editor / news director: For more information on mental health in the Canadian Armed Forces, please see the backgrounder on Mental Health Services in the Canadian Armed Forces:

Bell and True Patriot Love have partnered to create The Bell True Patriot Love Fund in support of and to improve the mental health and well-being of Canadian Armed Forces families affected by mental health issues as a result of the stressors unique to the military lifestyle. Bell has contributed $500 000 to the fund and True Patriot Love has committed $500 000, for a total of $1 million. The fund will operate for four years (2013-2016) and make annual grants in the range of $5000 to $25 000 to programs at Military Family Resource Centres across Canada that focus on improving access and availability of mental health care and support services to military families. The Fund will distribute $250 000 annually.

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