Vet with PTSD from Afgan, kills 3 family members and himself

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Caring for veterans with mental illness

Post by Guest on Fri 06 Jan 2017, 12:40

Caring for veterans with mental illness

Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr discusses how the government helps veterans struggling with mental illness.


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Re: Vet with PTSD from Afgan, kills 3 family members and himself

Post by Teentitan on Fri 06 Jan 2017, 13:14

Wow great PSA by our "somewhat" Honorable Minister. He brings up the mandate letter, as usual, but doesn't say a word about the Wellness Centre's? Shame

For those who don't know the 24/7 phone number he talks about does exist. What he said that was wrong it is NOT a dedicated crisis number for military and vets. The call centre is owned and operated under the Health Canada department. In other words it's a process center without proper training on how to deal with veterans/soldiers with PTSD and suicidal thoughts. Some of their operators have been known to hang up on callers because they get scared, can't handle a distressed vet/soldier screaming for help, are so damn confused they hang up and hope it goes away.

Now if VAC created it's OWN health crisis phone number the operators could be trained to handle vets/soldiers with PTSD. Imagine if this phone number existed? A vet/soldier in distress calls and if the operator feels the caller is going to cause harm one push of the button and there is a direct connection to the RCMP, OPP, QPP to get to the vet/soldiers location.

Who thinks this would be a better crisis line to call then the one we have now?
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More deaths coming from PTSD if no help, former P.E.I. soldier warns

Post by Guest on Fri 06 Jan 2017, 17:35

More deaths coming from PTSD if no help, former P.E.I. soldier warns

Former P.E.I. soldier and president of Marijuana for Trauma P.E.I. remembers Lionel Desmond, shares concerns over services for veterans with PTSD

Published on January 6, 2017

Former soldier Dennis MacKenzie, now the president of the P.E.I. chapter of Marijuana for Trauma, trained and served with Lionel Desmond in the military. He says more help is needed for soldiers and veterans with PTSD.

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – A former soldier who trained and served with Lionel Desmond in the Canadian Armed Forces says he believes more veterans will take their own lives if more help is not offered to veterans with PTSD.

Dennis MacKenzie of P.E.I. went through training with Desmond in Meaford, Ont., and the two were later posted to the same unit at CFB Gagetown and served on the same tour in Afghanistan in 2007.

MacKenzie remembers Desmond as kind, caring and funny.

“Definitely not the monster that people are thinking right now,” MacKenzie told The Guardian Thursday.

“He was genuinely one of the most sincere people I’ve ever met in my life.”

Desmond, a military veteran, was found dead in his home in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S., Tuesday evening after an apparent murder-suicide. His wife, 10-year-old daughter and mother were also found dead inside the home from gunshot wounds. RCMP have said it appeared the 33-year-old Desmond “took his own life” inside the home.

MacKenzie says he is devastated over this tragedy, especially after reading reports from family members that Desmond had been seeking help for PTSD.

“I’m pretty crushed. My heart is broken,” MacKenzie said.

“This should never happen. There’s no excuse. There’s no reason for this to ever happen.”

MacKenzie himself suffers from PTSD but has found healing in medical marijuana and peer support and has been working to help fellow veterans find new pathways to healing.

This summer, he opened the first Prince Edward Island chapter of Marijuana for Trauma, an organization that provides support for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

MacKenzie now has over 200 clients. Some have told him they are simply not getting the support they need from Veterans Affairs or from the military for their illness.

“I’m still hearing from people today being told by their chains of command that PTSD isn’t real, that this is just imaginary, that you suck it up, you move on. This is being told to them by superiors today,” MacKenzie said.

“There is help for them, but they don’t know it’s there.”

He believes veteran-run groups like his and other non-profits are offering better services for vets with PTSD.

But they are running into some roadblocks.

In November, Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr announced a cut to the amount of medical marijuana provided to veterans from 10 grams to three grams a day, citing ballooning costs and concerns raised by the federal auditor general.

This cut will become effective May 21, 2017.

MacKenzie says there is no doubt in his mind this change will mean more veteran suicides.

“It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of ‘when’ the first suicide happens because of this decision. It’s going to happen,” MacKenzie said.

“The government is going to have blood on their hands for this.”

He says he hopes those who may be suffering with PTSD will reach out for help, but he continues to believe the government is not doing enough for soldiers and veterans who are ill.

“When do we have to stop proving how sick we are in order to get the help that we’re entitled to?”

In a statement to The Guardian, a spokesman for the Department of National Defense said significant investment and commitment has been made to ensure active Canadian Armed Forces members have the education and awareness programs required to help identify people at risk for mental health problems and to provide them with assistance.

“Caring for our members is a top priority. While significant progress has been achieved in the area of mental health in recent years, we know more needs to be done and strive to continuously improve our programs,” said Daniel Le Bouthillier, head of media relations for National Defense.

“The institution will continue to work hard to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help and mental illness.”

A spokesperson for Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) stated Thursday the department is also committed to ensuring veterans, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their families have mental health support when they need it.

VAC has a national network of around 4,000 mental health professionals who deliver mental health services to veterans and serving and released RCMP officers with post-traumatic stress disorder and other operational stress injuries.

Services include a network of 11 operational stress injury clinics, as well as a 24-hour toll-free help line, short-term face-to-face mental health counselling and referral services.

In Nova Scotia this past June, VAC and the Nova Scotia Health Authority opened the Nova Scotia Operational Stress Injury Clinic in Dartmouth, which provides full assessment, diagnosis and treatment services for veterans, members of the Canadian Armed Forces, current and former members of the RCMP and their families.


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N.S. murder-suicide a painful reminder of plight for ex-soldiers affected by PTSD

Post by Guest on Sat 07 Jan 2017, 06:02

N.S. murder-suicide a painful reminder of plight for ex-soldiers affected by PTSD

Former Canadian soldier Greg Matters served in Bosnia during the war and also suffered from PTSD. He was killed in a standoff with RCMP officers in 2012.

N.S. murder-suicide a painful reminder of plight for ex-soldiers affected by PTSD

Dene Moore
National Affairs Contributor
January 6, 2017

Former Canadian soldier Greg Matters served in Bosnia during the war and also suffered from PTSD. He was killed in a standoff with RCMP officers in 2012.View photos
Former Canadian soldier Greg Matters served in Bosnia during the war and also suffered from PTSD. He was killed in a standoff with RCMP officers in 2012.
The murder-suicide of a former Canadian soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and his family has brought back painful memories and lingering frustrations for Tracey Matters.

Five years ago, her brother Greg, an ex-soldier suffering from PTSD, was shot and killed in a confrontation with RCMP in British Columbia.

The deaths of Lionel Desmond, his wife Shanna, their 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah, and his mother Brenda this week is something that will undoubtedly haunt their loved ones, she says.

“It’s still a struggle every day,” Matters tells Yahoo Canada News. “I think about Greg 100 times a day and I miss him terribly.”

Despite a rising tide of PTSD, also called Operational Stress Injury, there is still a long way to go to providing the support sufferers need, she says.

Her brother received a medical discharged from the Canadian Forces in 2009 after 15 years that included service in Bosnia. Already diagnosed with PTSD, Greg, 40, did not tell his family about his struggles, Matters says.

“He kept it a secret… it was only after a period of time that he said he’d been medically discharged,” she says.

It was Greg’s family that had to find a doctor and psychiatrist to treat him. The improvement was immediate, she says, but then came the September 2012 confrontation with RCMP at the rural home he shared with his mother near Prince George, B.C.

An RCMP emergency response team was deployed to arrest Greg for assaulting his brother, dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic weapons.

RCMP say he was armed with a hatchet and approaching an officer when he was shot twice in the back with an M16.

A coroner’s jury made nine recommendations, most of them aimed at RCMP training. They also recommended improved monitoring by the Canadian Forces of the “physical, emotional and financial health” of military members, including after discharge.

And the jury recommended support and education on PTSD for loved ones of military members.

But Tracey Matters says it seems that support still falls short.

“I don’t know if anyone has taken notice,” she says.

There is a stigma attached to PTSD that prevents sufferers from getting help, she says.

“Not everyone with PTSD is suicidal. PTSD doesn’t mean you’re a dangerous person,” Matters says. “It is an injury, it’s not a mental illness. It can be treated and people can be supported to get through this terrible time in their life.”

Lionel Desmond, a former member of the 2nd Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment based in Gagetown, N.B., left the military 18 months ago, already suffering from PTSD. He served in Afghanistan in 2007.

In Desmond’s case, the province has announced an investigation into services provided by the provincial health care system. Neither the Canadian Forces nor Veterans Affairs, which operate 10 operational stress injury clinics across the country, have committed to an investigation of his case.

An investigation by the Globe and Mail last year found that at least 72 Canadian veterans of the war in Afghanistan have died by suicide.

Tracey Matters expects the number of Afghanistan war veterans with PTSD will continue to grow.

She encourages family members to be assertive advocates, research the illness and be dogged in finding the right treatment and support.

“They need the right program, they need the right support and they need 24-hour access to some kind of crisis service and so do their families,” she says.

She blames RCMP for his death.

“The way the police handled the situation was absolutely appalling,” she says.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP completed an investigation into Greg’s death in October 2015. The report and its recommendations were turned over to the RCMP commissioner for a response.

The complaints commission continues to await that response and the report has not been released publicly.

“That’s a long time to wait so we still have lots of questions,” Matters says.

Greg’s mother, Lorraine Matter, has also filed a civil lawsuit against RCMP. Her brother’s death led Tracey to join an organization in Australia, Legacy, that provides support for the families of veterans.


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Veterans' support groups on P.E.I. see spike in calls

Post by Guest on Sat 07 Jan 2017, 06:07

Veterans' support groups on P.E.I. see spike in calls

CBCJanuary 6, 2017

Veterans' support groups on P.E.I. see spike in calls

CBCJanuary 6, 2017

The tragedy in Nova Scotia has caused a spike in calls to veteran support groups on P.E.I. and has added a new sense of urgency for Island veterans seeking help for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

"We are busy these days. A lot of people are shaken up," said Dennis MacKenzie, the volunteer in charge of one Charlottetown support group.

"This should never happen. We have programs that are in place and will work if people get the proper help when they need it," said MacKenzie.

MacKenzie and one veteran exchanged hugs in the Charlottetown office of Marijuana for Trauma. It is a non-profit group that, among other programs, helps veterans obtain prescriptions for medical marijuana.

Other veteran support groups on P.E.I., including government-run programs are busy, too, say organizers.

According to one estimate, over half of all military veterans living on PEI, are receiving some sort of counselling or support.

MacKenzie is an Afghanistan veteran. He says there's still a stigma around PTSD.

"I didn't speak about my PTSD until after I was released from the military," said MacKenzie. "It's such a stigma, you don't want people to know. So it's about breaking that stigma and saying yes, I need help."


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Family of murder-suicide victims say Veterans Affairs should pay for funerals

Post by Guest on Sat 07 Jan 2017, 06:18

Family of murder-suicide victims say Veterans Affairs should pay for funerals

CTV Atlantic
Published Friday, January 6, 2017 7:14PM AST

There are questions over who is going to pay for the funerals for the four people who were found dead Tuesday night in Upper Big Tracadie, Nova Scotia.
On Friday, the RCMP confirmed the multiple shooting was a triple murder-suicide. Afghan war veteran Lionel Desmond shot his wife, daughter and mother before turning the gun on himself.
While the family maintains the murder-suicide is a direct result of PTSD, the RCMP won't say what role, if any, it's playing in their investigation.

Afghan war veteran Lionel Desmond shot his wife, daughter and mother before turning the gun on himself.

“This is a very unique case, and a lot of people have said for Nova Scotia, but it's a very unique and tragic and very disturbing case for anywhere, for anyone to encounter,” says NS RCMP Cpl. Jennifer Clarke.

As the investigation continues, the reality is setting in that one family is left to plan four funerals at the same time.
“With this big tragedy like this here, taking out your whole family, three generations. Your mother, your daughter and yourself,” says Shanna Desmond's Aunt Catherine Hartling.“I think it should be covered then.”

There are concerns about the role Veterans Affairs Canada will play in the funeral services.
“They're fully willing to cover the veteran, which would be Lionel Desmond,” says Shanna Desmond's brother Sheldon Borden. ”But they're not taking any responsibility for the other deaths in the household.”

Veterans Affairs won't comment on a specific case, but says the loss of any Canadian to violence impacts the nationas a whole.

In a statement to CTV News, Marc Lescoutre of Veterans Affairs Canada says: “Veterans Affairs Canada is committed to remembering the service and sacrifice of those who have served.”

The statement goes on to say: “Funeral and burial assistance is provided to veterans who die of a service-related injury or illness."
Veterans advocate Peter Stoffer says Veterans Affairs should help the family however possible.

“Sometimes you have to throw the book away and do what is the compassionate thing and the humanitarian thing in this issue,” says Stoffer. “What is the Canadian thing to do? I think the government should easily say, look in this circumstance, we'll look after the services of all four.”

A crowdfunding campaign has also started raising money for the Desmond family. As of 6:00pm Friday, it had raised more than $11,000 in less than 24 hours.


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Veterans Affairs standing by level of support it provides former soldiers

Post by Guest on Sat 07 Jan 2017, 06:23

Veterans Affairs standing by level of support it provides former soldiers

Posted Jan 6, 2017 5:25 pm EST Last Updated Jan 6, 2017 at 6:40 pm EST

OTTAWA – Canada’s Veterans Affairs Department is standing by the support and assistance it provides to former soldiers in distress — a subject of controversy in the wake of a murder-suicide involving a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.

RCMP confirmed Friday that Lionel Desmond shot his wife, their 10-year-old daughter and his mother before turning the gun on himself in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S. The four bodies were discovered Tuesday.

Family members say Desmond, who was released from the military in July 2015, was diagnosed with PTSD after a tour in Afghanistan in 2007. Veterans Affairs has said it cannot comment on the case, citing privacy laws.

But officials say veterans who need immediate help can use a toll-free number to speak to a clinician about their troubles and determine what assistance is needed. The line, staffed around the clock, received more than 1,100 calls in 2015-16.

“Anyone in the country, or any family member, can call,” Veterans Affairs chief psychiatrist Dr. Alexandra Heder told The Canadian Press in an interview.

“Every clinician across Canada who has a job like this on a help line, they are trained to do that kind of assessment first and then take steps if needed.”

For non-emergencies, the clinician can make an appointment with the veteran’s case manager, one of Veterans Affairs Canada’s many operational stress injury clinics, or one of 4,000 private mental-health providers registered with the department. Appointments take three to five business days.

If the veteran is in crisis, they will be contacted within 24 hours for an appointment. If there is a threat to the veteran or their family, local authorities are contacted.

“If the clinician determined that there was an immediate risk for the person, they could call the police, they could call 911 for ambulance services,” said Dr. Cyd Courchesne, the department’s chief medical officer.

“It’s dependent on the situation, but that always remains the option.”

That isn’t good enough, said Peter Stoffer, a former NDP MP and longtime advocate for veterans, who noted family members said Desmond was turned away prior to the shooting after trying to get help at a local hospital.

“If you call 911, what are they going to tell you?” asked Stoffer. “They’re going to come to you and take you somewhere. But if somewhere is full, what do you do then?”

Stoffer said additional measures need to be put in place, such as making it easier for vets to contact case managers, which is what a House of Commons committee recommended last month.

He said hospitals should routinely ask if someone has served with the military, and the department should establish better contacts with hospitals and other local health facilities to ensure veterans in distress aren’t turned away.

“Somebody in the hospital could have called the various numbers for him, and then seek out the assistance that he required,” Stoffer said.

“If it’s not necessarily in that area, then there should have been some availability for him somewhere. And you would have assumed by identifying him as a veteran, that they would have immediately called the appropriate numbers and assist him in that way.”

University of Victoria associate professor Tim Black, a registered psychologist who works with veterans and their families, said he agrees there’s a need for better screening of veterans at hospitals and co-ordination between the department and hospitals.

But he said many people with mental illness are turned away when they seek help from local hospitals, with veterans serving as canaries in the coal mine in terms of highlighting the system’s shortfalls.

“These things happen in the civilian world all the time,” he said.

“As a psychologist, you can refer someone to the emergency room. That doesn’t mean they’re going to get help. They might be seen, but then they might be sent back home. I think it’s more an unfortunate commentary on the Canadian focus on mental health.”


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'We can't go back,' says doctor at hospital linked to veteran in murder-suicide

Post by Guest on Sat 07 Jan 2017, 18:34

'We can't go back,' says doctor at hospital linked to veteran in murder-suicide

Dr. Maureen Allen says rural hospitals struggling to help people with mental health crises
By Elizabeth McMillan, CBC News Posted: Jan 06, 2017 2:42 PM AT Last Updated: Jan 06, 2017 3:21 PM AT

Family members say Lionel Desmond was turned away from Saint Martha's hospital.

An emergency room doctor at the hospital accused of turning away a Canadian Forces veteran the day before he killed himself and his family, says hospitals in rural Nova Scotia are desperate for more mental health services.

Dr. Maureen Allen, who works at St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish, N.S., was not involved in Lionel Desmond's case and can't discuss specifics of what happened with him at the facility.

But she says she welcomes the investigation announced Thursday by Nova Scotia Health Minister Leo Glavine into what contact Desmond had with the provincial health-care system.

"We can't go back. I know that every one of us would like to go back and change this outcome but we can't," Allen said in an interview. "So how do we find the strength within ourselves to move forward, but also to help this family move forward. It needs to be looked at very carefully."

Family found dead

Shanna Desmond, 31, Brenda Desmond, 52, and 10-year-old Aaliyah Desmond were found dead in their Upper Big Tracadie, N.S., home Tuesday night. Lionel Desmond shot them before taking his own life, RCMP confirmed Friday.  

Dr. Maureen Allen is an emergency room physician at St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish, N.S.

Family members have said Lionel Desmond had post-traumatic stress disorder related to a tour in Afghanistan. He was released from the military in 2015 and spent time at a Montreal clinic.

Family members say he sought mental health help at St. Martha's before the killings. One member says he was turned away because there were no beds, another says it was because they didn't have his file.

The Health Department and Nova Scotia Health Authority "are gathering information internally so we have a better understanding of what may or may not have happened," Health Minister Leo Glavine said in a statement issued Friday.

'Need much greater than I can provide'

Glavine said he's working with Dr. Linda Courey, the health authority's senior director of health and addictions, but they are "bound by privacy legislation and cannot provide personal details."

Allen said emergency rooms like the one she works in "are inundated" with people struggling with mental health and addictions issues, particularly on weekends and during the evening hours.

"I'm a physician who is trained to do emergencies, who is trained to sit with patients, but the kind of care these patients need is much greater than I can provide for them," she said.

"There's no question there needs to be some sort of flexibility and change within the system. Patients who come to us after hours and on weekends are really at the disposal of the resources of the emergency department."

Shanna Desmond and her daughter were among four of the people killed in the murder-suicide at a home in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S.

Assessing people in crisis

St. Martha's mental health crisis worker only is accessible 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Allen said. Psychiatrists on staff are on call after hours, but she said it often falls to emergency room physicians who are "pulled in many directions" and family physicians to assess a distressed person's mental state.

There are specific screening processes for people who have visited the emergency rooms several times, but it can be harder to determine the extent of a mental health crisis during a patient's first visit, Allen said.

Physicians must evaluate whether a patient is a danger to themselves or others. This may involve talking to a person's family and assessing if a patient is capable of making decisions related to their own care.

"You can screen out all of that and still have a terrible outcome. So how can we change that screening?" she said.

Preventing future deaths

Screening takes time and sitting down to talk in the "very chaotic and unpredictable" environment of an emergency room is often not the best option for a patient, Allen said.

Under an amalgamated provincial health authority, Allen said the Antigonish hospital no longer has a dedicated "pocket of money" to allocate for specific services, such as more mental health care.

In September, Lionel Desmond posted a Facebook video of himself doing the 22 pushup challenge, an initiative to raise awareness about PTSD.

Instead, she said it's now competing with needs from across the province.

"You feel like you've been forgotten, that we have no voice, that we're losing our autonomy," she said

Allen calls the volume of patients she sees from Pictou to Inverness as the "canary in the coal mine" of the health-care system — setting off alarms that people with mental health and addictions issues are not getting access to the treatment they need.

"From my perspective there are many examples in health care where we've let families and patients down, that we need to be able to step back and say how can we prevent this in the future and how can we learn from this process?"


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Veterans Affairs to cover funeral costs of murder-suicide victims

Post by Guest on Sat 07 Jan 2017, 18:42

Veterans Affairs to cover funeral costs of murder-suicide victims

Jan 07, 2017

Click on the link below to view video:


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The war doesn’t end when soldiers return home

Post by Guest on Sun 08 Jan 2017, 16:00

The war doesn’t end when soldiers return home

Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Jan. 08, 2017 8:00AM EST
Last updated Sunday, Jan. 08, 2017 3:21PM EST

When I learned the news last week about the Canadian veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who unsuccessfully sought help and then, overcome by his operational injury, apparently killed his family and himself – I was beyond distraught. The catastrophic case of Lionel Desmond could not serve as a more powerful warning to the senior policy-makers in our country. But will it be enough?

I have spent decades fighting for injured veterans, including myself, as we continue to destroy ourselves and too many others in our wake. The wars that soldiers fight do not end when we return home; they stay alive within us, and without urgent treatment our injury – PTSD – will destroy us. Just like an injury to the body will become gangrenous, fester, and infect, so too does this injury to our brains and moral centre. But unlike most other injuries, PTSD deeply affects the entire family as well; in this case, fatally.

The scale of the damage and the depth of the destruction that deployment in today’s complex conflicts can wreak is almost incomprehensible. Lionel Desmond’s actions were reprehensible; but, so too was the lack of care he and his family received when he returned from his mission. This was a soldier lost in a system that is grievously inadequate to handle the load and complexity of these injuries or to provide the urgent support required for vets and their families. With a chain of command out of the picture, and an underfunded veterans department strangled by regulations, our system is wholly unprepared for this postwar demand. As a result, injured vets, both in and out of service, continue to be shunted aside, falling into the support cracks, flailing for help.

This is an urgent message that must be heeded: The casualties of past wars continue to mount even as we are preparing for the next conflict. Military-weapons upgrades, the introduction of new tactics, and preparations of troops to face the next threat are all getting a heavy dose of essential funding and priority. However, penny-pinching resource allocations and prohibitive restrictions around support to casualties of the last fight clearly have devastating effects. Care for our current injured members sets the start line for the total commitment of our soldiers and their families for the next round in the defence of peace and human rights.

Nova Scotia – where Lionel Desmond lived and where I am now based with the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative – is home to a disproportionate number of veterans. To utilize the strengths and skills of injured vets, while giving them a second chance to serve, the Dallaire Initiative has instituted a training program – through which Canadian military veterans assist in the dissemination of a new doctrine to reduce battle casualties and help eradicate the use of child soldiers globally.

The Canadian government would do well to follow suit: to seek out injured veterans and provide them whatever tools they require to rejoin society after their missions, for all our sakes.

As I wrote in my last book, "I find myself empty now, at a loss for words. Over the past two years, I mustered what I had left to share the details of my own struggles with PTSD. I turn to those pages now."

"It was not easy for me to share my vulnerabilities so candidly, but the dark side of living with PTSD has to come out. If it does not, the world will continue to hear of us only when we commit suicide."

Courageous soldiers serving in today’s difficult and ethically ambiguous missions can and should be treated for PTSD at its first signs; the Forces should anticipate the need for treatment in order to head the damage off, not just wait until a soldier is desperate enough to seek help. And we – meaning all of us – need to shoulder our share of the burden and recognize the contribution made by our soldiers when they undertake such missions on behalf of humanity. We need to insist that they are supported when they come home.

The brain is as vital to life as any organ in the human body. To treat an injury to the brain as less urgent, less in need of care and compassion than other, more obvious types of injury is misguided and ignorant. Our efforts to treat our veterans with PTSD must be comparable to our efforts to repair damaged hearts, provide timely kidney transplants, avoid amputations or restore eyesight.

Only when we truly understand the injury and take action to mitigate its impact will we be able to say that we recognize the real costs of peacekeeping, peacemaking and war.

Lieutenant-General (ret) Roméo Dallaire is the founder of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative at Dalhousie University, and author of Waiting for First Light: My Ongoing Battle with PTSD.


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Not helping veterans could turn into national security problem: Military Ombudsman

Post by Guest on Sun 08 Jan 2017, 16:12

CANADA January 8, 2017 12:20 pm                         Updated: January 8, 2017 1:27 pm

By Rebecca Joseph and Amy Minsky Global News

WATCH: Military Ombudsman Gary Walbourne tells Vassy Kapelos the government does not need to wait for its defence policy review to take action for military members and veterans who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Canada’s approach to transitioning Canadian Forces members out of service is fundamentally flawed — and, if it’s not addressed, could lead to national security problems, said Canadian Armed Forces ombudsman Gary Walbourne.

The root of the problem is the fact many Forces members are released before adequate support is set up, he said in an interview on The West Block.

“I think … the service delivery model we’re using for the transitioning member, I think it’s fundamentally flawed,” Walbourne said. “And I think the major flaw is that we release people before they’re ready or before the systems are in place to help them.”

He says he’s already recommended that no member of the armed forces be released until all benefits, including pension and their contact with Veteran’s Affairs, are put in place.

“If we don’t change the position and the approach we have, I think the conversation is going to change away from transitioning members to national security,” he said.

“I do believe that if we could get back to that one recommendation of holding the member until everything was in place, I think we could have a different conversation next year.”

The apparent murder-suicide of a Nova Scotia veteran and his family last week left the country reeling.

Lionel Desmond shot and killed his wife Shanna, 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah and mother Brenda, before turning the gun on himself, RCMP say.

His family said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and sought help.

Asked why the recommendation hasn’t yet been considered, Walbourne said it’s up to the Forces to step up.

“I’m as beguiled and bewildered as you,” he said. “Why is that there’s a tragedy before we start having the conversation? Why aren’t we doing something different?”

He also said these changes could be implemented before the Defence Policy Review, which is expected to come out in the spring.

He says the changes he wants are “well within the purview of the authority of the Minister of the National Defence and the Chief of Defence Staff.

“So I don’t know why we need to wait for an overarching strategic document or I think we know what needs to be done. I’d just like to see some action.”

Recent reports say that at least 54 Canadian military members have committed suicide in the past three years.

Catherine Hartline, Desmond’s wife’s aunt told Global News Desmond had asked for help for his PTSD.

“He didn’t get the help. He should have had the professional help he needed and it was not done right away. When the man showed the signs he should have been put somewhere to have a full recovery,” Hartline said.


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P.E.I. veteran says he’s not receiving adequate mental health care in province

Post by Guest on Mon 09 Jan 2017, 06:08

P.E.I. veteran says he’s not receiving adequate mental health care in province
Mitch MacDonald
Published on January 8, 2017

P.E.I. veteran Tim Lockert plays with his dog Shadow at his home near Pleasant Grove. Lockert, who struggles with severe depression and a number of physical ailments, said he was on the brink of committing suicide when he visited the QEH Emergency Room in December. Lockert said he’s not receiving the psychological treatment he needs.

P.E.I. veteran Tim Lockert says he was proud to serve his country as a member of the Canadian Forces for about 15 years.

However, a lack of psychological care provided since has left him feeling embarrassed and brushed aside.

Lockert, 50, says he felt he was turned away from the QEH when he went to the Emergency Room about a month ago for physical pain and severe depression.

Following the death of his mother in October, Lockert said he was on the brink of suicide when he visited the ER in December.

Although he received treatment for his back pain, an ailment that’s become gradually worse over the past 25 years, Lockert said he felt he was basically told to “go home” for his depression.

“I was telling them ‘I’m suicidal, I’m not well in the brain,’ and basically the nurse that was in charge said ‘shh, don’t say that or they’ll lock you up,” said Lockert. “I said ‘no, I need help or I’m going to be dead.”

Having previously been in acute psychiatric care (Unit 9), Lockert said the ER doctor had relayed a similar message.

“He said ‘there’s not much we can do for you. You don’t think Unit 9 is good for you and you’re waiting for counselling’,” said Lockert. “I was in a deep, dark place the initial night when I was turned down and sent home. When you live on your own, there’s not much support.”

Prior to the ER visit, Lockert said he had been in Unit 9 for about a week and was released.

He said the unit provided him a safe space but no counselling.

“I basically said ‘no this isn’t the place for me,” said Lockert, who has attempted suicide in the past. “I need counselling, I need to see a psychiatrist and psychologist. It’s great being safe but I should be counselled while I’m here. It seemed more like a babysitting area.”

Lockert returned to the ER with suicidal thoughts again less than a week after the initial incident.

He said he was kept overnight and treated with medication, although he hasn’t spoken with anyone from the QEH or Health P.E.I. since the event.

“It was the initial night when I said I needed help and I wanted to die. I was unsafe, I really was,” said Lockert, who noted he’s a frequent ER patient due to his back. “I’m not happy with them.”

A spokesperson for Health P.E.I. said it would be early this week before they would be able to respond to a request for more information regarding the event.

The issue of access to mental health services made national headlines last week when Nova Scotia veteran Lionel Desmond shot his wife, daughter and mother before killing himself. Desmond had reportedly sought mental health treatment in Antigonish’s St. Martha’s Regional Hospital a day before the triple-murder suicide and was turned away.

Lockert was in the Canadian Forces from 1985 to 2000, of which the majority was spent as a Class B reservist working at CFB Gagetown.

He was medically released from the army once he became an insulin dependent diabetic. Following his time with the Canadian Forces, he worked in the health care system as a pharmacy technician and Licensed Practical Nurse.

He said he stopped working about three years ago once his back pain became too excruciating.

He said that injury was originally caused by a workplace incident about 25 years ago while in the Canadian Forces. However, his claim has been rejected by Veterans Affairs Canada and is currently up for appeal.

Along with his back pain and depression, Lockert suffers from a number of other physical ailments.

He said he’s also being assessed for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“I’ve got problems thinking, my mental capacity has gone downhill just in the past six months,” he said.

He said the level of support provided to veterans has made him feel embarrassed.

“I served my country. I may not have been the best soldier but I was the first to volunteer and the last to leave,” said Lockert. “I was never embarrassed to serve my country until I had to deal with DVA (Veterans Affairs Canada) then I was embarrassed to be a veteran.”


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Canadian Afghan war veteran commits suicide after killing family

Post by Guest on Wed 11 Jan 2017, 06:08

Canadian Afghan war veteran commits suicide after killing family

By Laurent Lafrance
11 January 2017

A tragedy that took place at the beginning of January in Upper Big Tracadie, a small and isolated town in northeastern Nova Scotia, has shed light on the consequences of the increasingly aggressive domestic and foreign policies of the Canadian ruling elite.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) confirmed last Friday that 33-year-old Afghan war veteran Lionel Desmond shot himself after killing his mother, Brenda, 52; his wife, Shanna Desmond, 31; and their 10-year-old daughter, Aliyah. The murder-suicide has left the community, located some 200 miles from Halifax, in shock.
Relatives confirmed that Desmond suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after he came back from Afghanistan, where he was deployed from January to August of 2007 as an infantry soldier in the Royal Canadian Regiment. He joined the armed forces in 2004 and was released 18 months ago.

This latest tragedy is an indictment of the entire ruling class and military apparatus that have used young men as cannon fodder to advance Canada’s imperialist interests around the globe. When these men come back home, usually traumatized by the cruelty of war and the atrocities inflicted on the civilian population—often with their own participation—they are left with inadequate health care and other vital services due to decades of budget cutting by all of the establishment political parties.

Desmond wrote on his Facebook page last month that he had hit his head on a light armoured vehicle and suffered back spasms after falling off a wall while in the military. He said he had been told he had post-concussion disorder as well as PTSD. Desmond’s sister-in-law explained that he recently decided to stay at his grandparents’ house because he was “getting so out of control,” and that he was verbally aggressive with his wife.

Rev. Elaine Walcott, another relative, said, “Lionel loved his mother, his family, and he was a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder and the memories he didn’t want to have.” Lionel’s sister, Cassandra Desmond, told CBC News: “My brother suffered in silence for 10 years fighting demons that we don’t even know, seeing things, replaying events in his head...”

According to Shanna Desmond’s aunt, Catherine Hartline, when Lionel Desmond returned from Afghanistan he sought treatment in Montreal but did not get the adequate assistance. “The poor guy needed help and they sent him up to Montreal and put a little Band-Aid on him and sent him back.”

It was also revealed that Desmond tried to check himself into a mental health facility at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish the day before the tragedy, but he was apparently told there were no beds and that the hospital did not have his files.

This revelation prompted Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil to claim that his government, in conjunction with health authorities, would find out “what may or may not have happened” at St. Martha’s. In another token gesture, the Canadian government announced that it would pay the costs of the funeral of Desmond and his family members.

The government is clearly seeking to wash its hands of the situation and cover up the fact that the lack of services at St. Martha is the result of years of austerity measures imposed on public services by successive Liberal, Conservative and NDP provincial governments.

An emergency room doctor who works at the hospital, Dr. Maureen Allen, told CBC how budget cuts had impacted the services provided. Allen said emergency rooms “are inundated” with people struggling with mental health and addiction issues, and that the facility no longer has a dedicated budget for mental health services.

Under both the previous Harper Conservative government and the current Liberal Trudeau government, Veteran Affairs Canada has slashed millions of dollars, translating into hundreds of job cuts, closed offices that previously provided assistance to veterans and cut back on medical marijuana. In power, the Conservatives eliminated lifetime pensions for Afghanistan veterans and clawed back benefits. The number of VA employees shrank 21 percent between 2008 and 2014, resulting in the department’s smallest workforce since 1998.

Many ill and injured ex-soldiers must wait for months to find out if they qualify for benefits. Documents obtained by The Canadian Press show that just over half of the 6,000 veterans who applied for disability benefits between April and July last year received a decision within 16 weeks.

Veteran services have also been targeted for privatization. The most recent job cuts imposed by the Liberals will now force veterans to deal with Medavie Blue Cross, a for-profit private insurance company, for their benefit claims.

According to reports, Desmond received treatment from a joint personnel support unit for a year prior to his release from the military in July 2015. The JPSU, which is meant to provide support to physically and mentally ill soldiers, is severely under-funded.

The horrific event in Upper Big Tracadie is the latest in a string of similar tragedies involving war veterans. According to a Globe and Mail investigation, at least 72 soldiers and veterans have killed themselves after serving on the dangerous Afghanistan mission. The most recent reported case took place in 2015, when Robert Giblin, a veteran of two Afghanistan tours, repeatedly stabbed his wife before they fell from a high-rise apartment in Toronto.

Nearly one in 10 Canadian military personnel who took part in the mission in Afghanistan (about 3,600 out of 39,000) are now collecting disability benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder. However, experts say the prevalence of the illness is likely much higher among Canada’s combat troops. There are probably many ex-soldiers who have not reached out for benefits, and others who have never been diagnosed.

Calls by the media and politicians for better help for veterans are highly hypocritical. Above all, they seek to obscure the real cause of the Upper Big Tracadie tragedy: Canada’s participation in imperialist carnage in Central Asia and around the globe. In fact, after wiping their crocodile tears, the Canadian ruling class and the media will continue to push for a more aggressive foreign policy.

The Afghan war played a critical role in the reassertion of aggressive Canadian militarism. It marked the definitive end of a period in which, for their own geopolitical interests, the Canadian ruling class presented itself on the global stage as a “peacekeeping” nation.

Military strategists and government advisers celebrated the Afghan intervention, which saw the Canadian Armed Forces assume the leadership role in counter-insurgency operations in Kandahar. In the words of one official, this was a “revolution” in Canadian foreign policy. The ruling class is not about to allow what it views as collateral damage to the lives of veterans and their families to get in the way of the ruthless assertion of its interests.

Desmond’s fate—and the high number of soldiers suffering from PTSD—points to the real character of the Afghan war. Launched in 2001 shortly after September 11 as part of the US-led so-called “war on terror”, the Afghan war has revealed itself as a neocolonial war in which the major powers sought to destabilize and dominate the entire energy resource-rich region.

The Conservatives and the liberals both supported Canada’s participation in the war. For its part, the union-backed New Democratic Party, which made the withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan one of its main “progressive” policy planks, made an about-face in the 2008 election campaign when it sought a coalition with the Liberals and pledged to back Canada playing a leading role in the conflict through 2011.

Since then, the Canadian government has joined every military adventure led by the United States. Far from backing down from this war drive, the Trudeau government will soon announce a new deployment of Canadian troops in Africa to join US and French-led counter-insurgency missions and has already sent Canadian forces to Eastern Europe to menace Russia.


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Ottawa ignored calls to probe veteran suicides despite troubling 2014 audit

Post by Guest on Thu 12 Jan 2017, 06:19

Ottawa ignored calls to probe veteran suicides despite troubling 2014 audit

The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 5:00AM EST
Last updated Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 5:00AM EST

Veterans Affairs is not yet routinely reviewing suicides of former soldiers to identify lessons that might protect other vulnerable vets, despite an internal audit of cases that found troubling gaps at the department responsible for Canada’s most chronically ill and injured veterans.

Government documents obtained by The Globe and Mail through access-to-information legislation show that a 2014 probe of 49 suicidal vets and 31 suicides uncovered instances where Veterans Affairs was not properly monitoring the distraught vets. Some weren’t even screened for suicide risk in the first place.

Despite these findings – and internal calls for case-by-case reviews stretching back to at least 2010 – the federal department hasn’t analyzed a single vet suicide since the 2014 audit, revealed Michel Doiron, assistant deputy minister of service delivery at Veterans Affairs. He pledged on Wednesday that a process for regularly scrutinizing suicides and attempted suicides will be introduced this year.

“We’ve been looking into it since the fall,” Mr. Doiron said in an interview. “We want to make sure that if there is something for us to learn from a [suicide] event, that we do learn it and we rectify accordingly.”

Part of the problem, the 2014 probe found, was Veterans Affairs’ own administrative database, which was primarily designed for processing disability and benefit claims and not for tracking health changes and suicide risk among former military members, states an internal Veterans Affairs’ report that summarized findings from 10 medical and veterans experts involved in the audit.

“One barrier to care noted by several reviewers was missed opportunities to recognize prior suicidality in clients and arrange follow-up monitoring,” the report notes. “This barrier was thought in part to be due to the business rather than clinical focus” of Veterans Affairs’ database.

While the Canadian Forces are responsible for delivering health services to their military members, veterans fall under provincial medicare. Of the country’s nearly 700,000 vets, about 120,000 receive services or payments from Veterans Affairs, often for serious physical injuries or mental illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

One of those ill vets was Lionel Desmond, who deployed to Afghanistan in 2007. Mr. Desmond’s family said he was struggling with PTSD when he was released from the Forces in July, 2015. Last week, in a rural Nova Scotia home, police believe he gunned down his wife, Shanna Desmond, their 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, and his mother, Brenda Desmond, before killing himself.

The Nova Scotia government has launched an investigation of how the health system dealt with Mr. Desmond, a former infantryman with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, based in Gagetown, N.B. Just two days before the shootings, the veteran sought help at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in the nearby town of Antigonish, family members said. They believe he didn’t get adequate help at the hospital.

Rev. Elaine Walcott, a relative of the Desmond family, is calling on the military and Veterans Affairs to also investigate how they handled the chronically ill soldier. Neither Veterans Affairs nor the Forces has publicly committed to probing the Desmond case.

“There is a responsibility, systemically, for this to be examined,” she said Tuesday, on the eve of funerals for the Desmond family. “This is an opportunity to put a lens on” mental-health care.

Mr. Desmond, 33, is among at least 72 soldiers and veterans who have killed themselves after serving on the Afghanistan mission, an ongoing Globe and Mail investigation has found. Most have only taken their own lives, but just before Christmas in 2015, Robert Giblin, a veteran of two Afghanistan tours, stabbed his wife, Precious Charbonneau, before they fell from a high-rise apartment in Toronto. Mr. Giblin’s family said he suffered with PTSD.

Former veterans watchdog Pat Stogran, a retired army colonel, said it is “reprehensible” that formal suicide reviews are not yet commonplace at Veterans Affairs. He noted that he raised the issue during his ombudsman tenure, from 2007 to 2010.

“There has to be a feedback loop to say where we are going wrong,” Mr. Stogran said. “They should be taking substantial and very visible steps to fight this problem. It’s life and death.”

An expert group that reviewed, in 2010, a dozen vet suicides had also urged the department to routinely examine such deaths to better understand how to prevent other suicides. Yet no further investigation was done until 2014.

According to the access-to-information documents obtained by The Globe, the 2014 audit was conducted to identify suicide triggers, determine whether interventions were tried and to pinpoint measures to improve suicide prevention at Veterans Affairs.

The study’s experts noted that valuable information was gained by examining the 80 cases of vets who had either died by suicide, attempted to, or thought about ending their life.

Most of the veterans had a chronic physical-health problem coupled with a mental-health illness. Many were also coping with other stress, such as difficulty finding a job or financial, relationship and legal troubles.

Seventy-nine per cent were males and most had been released from the military in recent decades. A dozen, though, had served in the Second World War or Korea.

Of the 31 vets lost to suicide, the majority ended their lives at home, the probe showed. Their deaths occurred from 1961 to 2013.

Some “best practice” examples were found where front-line Veterans Affairs staff prevented suicides. Improvements in documenting suicide risk, compared with the 2010 review, were also noted.

The audit showed that the suicide profile of elderly vets differed from younger ones. These older former soldiers were less likely to have documented mental-health problems, but suffered with multiple chronic physical-health issues and social isolation.

Despite the audit’s numerous insights, a presentation included in the documents indicates staff with the Veterans Affairs’ service-delivery branch recommended against formal reviews of individual suicide cases. The presentation, prepared in June, 2015, acknowledges that data from the 2010 and 2014 studies have provided “significant information,” but cautions that there are “professional, ethical and legal considerations for employees whose actions will be reviewed.”

The recommendation then was for Veterans Affairs to periodically perform general examinations of suicide cases. That position has since changed.

Mr. Doiron said Veterans Affairs’ newly hired chief psychiatrist, Alexandra Heber, was asked to look into the issue in September. He said he hopes that an official suicide-review process will be in place by the end of March. Currently, only administrative reviews are done to determine whether benefits are owed to families. Any lessons identified are shared within the department, Mr. Doiron said.

Veterans Affairs and the Canadian Forces are working on a suicide-prevention strategy, which is expected later this year. Veterans Affairs recently added a tool to electronically record and track suicides and, in November, updated guidelines for dealing with suicidal veterans.


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Canada needs to do more for veterans, says War Pensioner rep

Post by Guest on Fri 13 Jan 2017, 05:59

Canada needs to do more for veterans, says War Pensioner rep

By Tom Sasvari - Jan 13, 2017

MANITOULIN—The Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada need to do a better job of ensuring veterans receive the physical and mental health assistance they need, after risking their lives for their country, says a representative of the War Pensioners of Canada (WPC). This comes after the recent murder-suicide of a Canadian Afghanistan veteran (who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder) and three members of his family.

“For the authorities to say there were no beds for him, I don’t know, there must have been other resources available or intervention. Someone missed something,” stated Colin Pick, president of the Espanola-Manitoulin-North Shore branch of the WPC in response to the apparent murder-suicide of a military veteran, Lionel Desmond, his newly-graduated nurse wife, their 10-year-old daughter and her grandmother in Nova Scotia earlier this month.

Nova Scotia RCMP said Mr. Desmond appeared to have shot himself and the three other victims died of apparent gunshot wounds. He served with the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan and suffered from PTSD. He retired as a corporal. He had been posted at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick and was seeking help and treatment for his condition since he left the military.

A Department of National Defense spokesperson told CBC News in a statement that Mr. Desmond was an infantryman with 2nd Battalion, the Royal Canadian Regiment. He enrolled in 2004 and deployed to Afghanistan from January to August of 2007.

Rev. Elaine Walcott, who lives just outside of Halifax and is related to the victims, told CBC News that Lionel Desmond had recently spent time in a Montreal clinic for post-traumatic stress disorder. She said that he had been crying out for help from the mental health system and had tried to get treatment very recently, but was told there were no beds available.

“All he was asking for was help,” said Mr. Pick. He pointed out, “this month is national Bell Let’s Talk about Mental Illness month and there are all kinds of stuff, on the radio, TV and in newspapers, to educate people on mental illness and the need for people to be able to talk about their issues.”

“It’s the ones that fall through the cracks that we hear about,” said Mr. Pick. “It’s sad, people can be showing signs and symptoms, but in a lot of cases others don’t read them right.”

“More needs to be done for our veterans,” said Mr. Pick. “When a person calls out for help, that help has to be there. To not have support available to (Mr. Desmond) is not right. Someone should have made sure he had the help and support he needed. Counselling and support services are needed even when they are making progress.”


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