Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

October 22, 2012 11:36 ET

Minister MacKay, Minister Blaney and Canadian Forces Senior Leaders Attend the Forum on Mental Health and the Canadian Forces

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 22, 2012) - The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veteran's Affairs, today joined General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff, Rear-Admiral Andrew Smith, Chief Military Personnel and senior leaders from across the Canadian Forces (CF) for a discussion on the CF's mental health programs, services and areas of research.

"Providing accessible mental health care is a key priority for the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Forces and the Government of Canada. This fall, I furthered our commitment by announcing $11.4 million to augment mental health care and preventive programs in the Canadian Forces. This investment brings the Canadian Force's annual mental health care budget to $50 million," said Minister MacKay, who addressed today's forum. "While financial investment is important to ensuring our men and women in uniform get the mental health support they need, an engaged and educated leadership is an essential component to the success of our program."

The Forum on Mental Health and the CF provided an opportunity for senior leaders across the CF, and for partner organizations from the government and civilian sectors, to gain a complete understanding of the comprehensive and innovative mental health programs and services available to CF personnel.

"By promoting dialogue on this important subject, we are working to reduce the stigma of mental illness and working to ensure that military personnel and Veterans alike receive the support they need when they need it." said Minister Blaney. "I am proud that our Government committed $5 million through our last budget for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and mental health research. By constantly working to strengthen the relationship between my department and the Department of National Defence, we continue to provide better help and care for those struggling with mental health issues."

The CF has shown great leadership in mental health amongst its NATO allies and the civilian sector, key achievements being that stigma levels have been assessed as being one third of that of our allies and having the highest ratio of mental health providers to military personnel. To date, over 50 000 CF members have received some form of mental health training and education.

"We have made great progress in breaking down 'old school' barriers to the identification and treatment of mental health issues, but we still have a long way to go. All of us, every Canadian Forces' officer, soldier, sailor, airman and airwoman, have a duty to make sure those facing mental health challenges get the help they need," said General Natynczyk. "We also know that we cannot tackle this issue alone. We must continue to work with our allies, and our civilian partners to ensure we provide our ill and injured with the care and support they and their families need. We must also continue to adapt the care offered, as our knowledge and understanding of mental health and illnesses improves. As a society, we have a collective responsibility to provide the best possible support we can to those who have defended our country and everything it stands for."

The discussion of this year's forum was launched last year, as the theme of that event was "Caring for Our Own". At this year's forum, Rear-Admiral Andrew Smith, is once again chairing and leading the discussion of how dealing with casualties during recent CF operations, especially Afghanistan, has served as a powerful catalyst for improving the care and the support provided to all injured CF members.

"I am pleased to continue this important dialogue amongst the Canadian Forces leadership and see that commanders from across all three services are genuinely interested in continuing to learn how to better support the health and well-being of their members," said Rear-Admiral Smith. "This year's forum on mental health and the Canadian Forces will provide leaders with insight into operational stress injuries, mental illness and how to guide the members within their respective lines through these challenges."

The Surgeon General, Brigadier-General Jean-Robert Bernier, had senior mental health medical staff from the CF Health Services assembled at this year's forum to present clinical information about mental health in a practical manner and also to provide details about the services and programs available to CF members who may be affected by mental illness.

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

Contact information: For more information on this announcement, please contact the National Defence Media Liaison Office at 1-866-377-0811.

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