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Soldiers' Medical and Psychologist Treatment

Everyone agrees that soldiers have suffered enough.  We also agree that no soldier should be denied complete and free treatment for medical and psychological conditions due to their service whether here or abroad.  

Then why are so many soldiers having to go to extreme efforts to ensure that their complications are researched, diagnosed and conscientiously treated?  There is no answer nor excuse.  In modern times,  since Vietnam, soldiers have been underserved, under-diagnosed and under-treated.   

Below are stories and reports which verify this travesty and hopefully encourage soldiers, military families, communities and the military to rectify the situation immediately.   

November 8, 2011:                                                                                                            Soldier's Hunger Strike to Publicize need for Treatment

Link:  http://www.news889.com/news/national/article/297010--ottawa-agrees-to-study-veterans-health-after-ex-soldier-calls-off-hunger-strike

Zoom in
Veteran Pascal Lacoste flashes a peace sign as he is loaded on an ambulance, ending his hunger strike in front of Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney's local riding office, Tuesday, November 8, 2011 in Levis, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Ottawa agrees to study veterans' health after ex-soldier calls off hunger strike

The Canadian Press  Nov 08, 2011 18:20:00 PM

LEVIS, Que. - The federal government will create a new committee to study veterans' health in the wake of a hunger strike by an ex-soldier who insists he was contaminated by depleted uranium while serving in Bosnia.

Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney made the announcement in Levis, Que., after Pascal Lacoste ended his protest and allowed himself to be taken away in an ambulance Tuesday.

Lacoste, who battled to get Ottawa to recognize his uranium poisoning while serving overseas, flashed a two-fingered "victory" sign as he ended his hunger strike.

Suicides, Homelessness and Government Programs to Help Jeapordized

 

Link: http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20111004/suicide-military-canada-am-series-111004?hub=TorontoNewHome

Many military suicides likely getting missed

CTV News Video

Canada AM: Romeo Dallaire on his time in Rwanda
A former commander of the UN mission in Rwanda shares his story of struggling with PTSD and attempting suicide after witnessing genocide in Rwanda. He also shares his thoughts on suicide in the military and veteran communities.
Canada AM: Suicide and mental illness Q and A
Canada AM's town hall on suicide and mental illness opens the floor to questions from the audience. Special guest speakers offer their insight and thoughts.
Canada AM: Jim Thomson, NHL enforcer
The hockey player who spent ten years as an NHL enforcer shares his struggle with depression throughout his entire career. He talks about how he came back from his lowest point, and gives advice to young hockey players.
Canada AM: A look at youth suicide
Alicia Raimundo, who struggled with suicidal thoughts during her teenage years, and Marc Kajouji, who lost his teen sister, discuss their struggles and explain how the landscape of suicide prevention should be changed.
Canada AM: Brenda, Darrell McMullin on their son
Less than four months after their soldier son killed himself, the McMullin family speaks about why they blame his suicide on the mission in Afghanistan.
Canada AM: Chief Angus Toulouse on aboriginals
Aboriginal youth make up the highest suicide rate in the country. The First Nations suicide rate is five to seven times higher than among other Canadians. Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse talks about what needs to be done.
Canada AM: Bill Wilkerson, co-author
The co-founder and CEO of the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health says the Canadian government must work hard to find a cure for depression, as it causes far too many deaths -- even through heart attacks.
Canada AM: Dr. David Goldbloom on the medical aspect
The senior medical advisor in education and public affairs at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health explains how experts are working towards better detecting and treating symptoms.
Canada AM: Bev Thomson with a preview
Thursday: The co-host of Canada AM says it is time to speak out on suicide, as it is a horrible plague on the country. She also gives a preview of who will be on the show to open up about their experiences.
Canada AM: Luke Richardson on his daughter
Wednesday: Daron Richardson was just 14 when she took her life last November. Her father, Ottawa Senators assistant coach Luke Richardson, opens up about how he and his family are grieving, and what he's doing to bring awareness to mental health.
Canada AM: Depression research in Ottawa
Wednesday: Canada AM takes a closer look at the latest advancements in mental health research at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre -- and finds out how experts are detecting depression.
Canada AM: Sheila Fynes on her family's loss
Tuesday: Canada AM takes a closer look at mental health in the military, and shares the story of one grieving family's struggle to find answers after their son took his own life.
Canada AM: Guy Parent on the military
Tuesday: The ombudsman opens up about the difficulties veterans with mental health issues face when dealing with Veterans Affairs Canada.
Canada AM: Eric Windeler, founder
Monday: The founder of The Jack Project says his son Jack was an engaging, smart young man, and explains how he and his family had no idea he was suffering from depression.
Canada AM: Inside the line at Kids Help Phone
Monday: The Kids Help Phone is a national anonymous counseling service available to kids in crisis and those dealing with typical teenage issues.

A A   |   Print   |  

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Angela Mulholland, CTVNews.ca Staff

Date: Tuesday Oct. 4, 2011 8:21 PM ET

This is the second instalment in Speak Out On Suicide, a series running this week on Canada AM and on canadaam.ctv.ca. Clickhere for Monday's feature on suicide and youth.

For decades, the issue of suicide in active soldiers and retired veterans was something that no one wanted to talk about. But a number of programs both within and outside the military are finally focusing attention on the issue.

How big a problem is suicide in Canada's military? It's difficult to say. The Canadian Forces reports that the suicide rate among currently active soldiers is actually lower than that of the general public. But once many of those soldiers are released from the military, research shows their suicide risk can rise to higher levels than that of civilians.

Assessing the toll can be difficult, because beyond the clear-cut suicides are the more subtle instances in which soldiers end their own lives.

A veteran who drinks heavily to dull mental pain might be engaging in a slow form of suicide. A soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder and anger issues might take reckless risks if he's lost his will to live. And how about the veteran with depression who ends up homeless and dies far too young?

None of these deaths would register on the books as a suicide, but all might well be traced back to the soldier's time in service.

We've long known of the physical toll the battlefield can exact. But in recent years, the invisible mental wounds of war have finally been getting more attention. Canada now has specialized operational stress injury clinics, and trauma and stress support centres on bases across the country to treat soldiers and veterans for PTSD, depression and substance abuse issues.

The Canadian Forces say the programs are working, and emerging mental health woes are being nipped in the bud early. But there are still many who slip through the cracks.

They are the soldiers who perhaps don't meet the definition of PTSD and who have to struggle alone with psychological issues. Or they're the ones who agressively resist calling on the military's support services. Even Forces members who never saw a day of conflict can still suffer depression as they struggle to find their new place in life after retirement.

Homeless vets tell their story

The Department of National Defence, Veterans Affairs and Statistics Canada released a study earlier this year that tried to assess the scope of suicide in soldiers. One of the surprising findings was that middle-aged veterans who had served from 1972 to 1986 appeared to have a greater risk of committing suicide, compared with the same civilian age group.

This is the same age group that Susan Ray, an assistant nursing professor at the University of Western Ontario, recently studied. She and colleague Cheryl Forchuk recently took on a first-of-its-kind study in which they sought out about 50 homeless veterans across the country. They interviewed each of them to better understand their stories and how they found themselves homeless.

She and her team expected to discover that the vets were struggling with PTSD and military trauma, since that has been the picture seen in the U.S.. Instead, they found that more than half these middle-aged vets had never been deployed once during their military careers. Most had served with the Canadian Forces at a time when Canada was engaged mostly in short peacekeeping missions, not the type of full-scale conflicts as the recent Afghanistan missions.

Many of these veterans were later caught up in military budget-slashing of the 1980s. That meant that counselling programs that might have helped them with their depression got the axe.

The veterans told Ray that they had had difficulty adjusting to civilian life, which led many to heavy drinking, which then spiralled into unemployment, family breakups, and homelessness.

"They said their best years were in the military," Ray told CTVNews.ca. "…But when they got out, many of them felt they were ill-prepared to take care of themselves. They didn't know how to adapt. So they would start drinking to hide from the problems and then downward they would go."

Ray says these days, Veterans Affairs Canada does a much better job of screening soldiers for psychological problems before they are discharged. In recent years, VAC has also begun regularly sending outreach workers to visit homeless shelters, looking for vets who want their help.

Current military programs might be in jeopardy

After nearly a decade of rising defence spending and with the combat mission in Afghanistan now over, the Department of Defence is expected to begin to trim its budget in the next few years,  possibly putting some veterans support programs in jeopardy.

That's why a program such as the Veterans Transition Program at the University of British Columbia might prove crucial. The UBC program is designed to help soldiers whose counselling and career transition needs aren't being fully by current VAC programs. It's independent of the military's budget, yet is meant to work intandem with their programs.

Tim Laidler, 26, is one of those soldiers who's used the program. He says he struggled with nightmares and other psychological issues for close to a year after returning from an eight-month tour in Afghanistan. But after meeting with the military's social workers and undergoing counselling at a Canadians Forces' OSI clinic, he was told he didn't have PTSD.

And yet he was still finding it difficult to talk with family and friends about what he had experienced overseas. He also found himself getting furious whenever he heard civilians trying to discuss the topic of Afghanistan, "with no idea what they were talking about."

"I would get really activated and I would feel myself getting really, really ramped up," Laidler told CTVNews.ca. "My skin was getting red hot and I would just ruminate on it for hours. And that would be just from someone saying, ‘How was Afghanistan?'"

On the advice of a friend, Laidler tried the Veterans Transition Program. Over three months, he underwent 10 days of group counselling with fellow soldiers and psychologist Marvin Westwood, the UBC psychology professor who helped to found the program.

"It was just so rewarding," Laidler remembers. "I got so much out of watching other soldiers tell their stories. I remember thinking, ‘That's the same way I feel. I get angry when someone says that to me as well.' It felt really validating that others were feeling what I was feeling."

Before the program, Laidler had trouble admitting that his deployment had deeply affected him. Now, he helps to assist other soldiers with their transitions and serves as the program's operations coordinator.

Laidler says that not only does the program help soldiers to "drop their emotional baggage," it counsels them on how  decide what they want to do next with their lives.

Ongoing research shows the program is working: helping to relieve the symptoms of depression among soldiers and increase their feelings of hope and optimism, Laidler says.

"This isn't just a light career transition counselling. There is hard psychology for people who are at risk of severe depression and eventually suicide," Laidler says.

The hope now is to launch the program nationwide, thanks to a grant from the Royal Canadian Legion. Laidler says he's glad the program was there when he needed it most.

"I'm always grateful to the Legion for being forward-thinking enough to have this program ready for me when I came home," Laidler said. "I know it was at the expense of numerous soldiers not having adequate programs when they came home."

 

Veterans and Unemployment                                                                                                      Obama's Promise, November 8, 2011

 

Earlier today, President Obama announced a set of executive actions designed to help veterans find jobs. Speaking in the White House Rose Garden to a group of veterans service associations, the President laid out the initiatives:

First, we’re delivering on the expanded job search services that I promised our post-9/11 veterans three months ago. Starting today, post-9/11 veterans looking for work can download what we’re calling the Veteran Gold Card, which gives you up to six months of personalized job search services at career centers across the country.

Second, we’re launching an easy-to-use online tool called My Next Move for Veterans that allows veterans to enter information about their experience and skills in the field and match it with civilian careers that put that experience to use.

Third, we’re connecting unemployed veterans to job openings. We’ve partnered with leading job search companies to create a new online service called Veterans Job Bank, where employers can ‘tag’ jobs postings for veterans using a simple approach designed by major search engines.

Connecting our veterans to the jobs they deserve isn’t just the right thing to do for our veterans—it’s the right thing to do for America.

 

Canadian Soldier's Needs; Do They Reflect US Dilemma too?

Link: http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/plocal/CTVNews/20111107/homeless-veterans-111107/20111107/?hub=TorontoNewHome&subhub=PrintStory

 

Is the homeless veteran problem set to explode?

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Standing a few discreet metres away from those selling Remembrance Day poppies at shopping centres across the country this week will be the ragged, faceless and forlorn pleading with people for their spare change.

Many of them once wore the smart, crisply pressed uniforms of Canada's military forces and they have become a small army of homeless veterans. That army will undoubtedly grow in size as troops returning from Afghanistan absorb the horrors of a decade of fighting there.

They're struggling with alcoholism and addictions. They often lack everyday skills like financial planning. And they often don't know where to turn to put their life back on track.

But homeless veterans also have a natural community of support that is quickly learning more about who they are, how they ended up on the street, and how to help them.

Across the country, small organizations of former soldiers are taking matters into their own hands, actively seeking out their homeless peers and matching them up with shelter, social services and government programs.

"We call ourselves 'ground support,"' said Jim Lowther, who started up the Veterans Emergency Transition Services network in Halifax, which is now being copied in several different provinces. "We stick with them until they get back on their feet. It's been really successful."

The volunteers are often effective at a very local level, helping dozens of vets off their city streets. But they are frustrated at the lack of a larger plan and bracing for the inevitable wave of Afghan vets as they process their experiences from home.

"It's absolutely wonderful that the vets are looking after their own. But at the end of the day, we need a different way of dealing with homelessness that would ensure that the second you touch the sector, all of a sudden you're plugged in to the services and supports you need in a seamless way," said York University's Stephen Gaetz, director of the Canadian Homelessness Research Network.

Lowther and his crew track down vets on the street or search for those living in precarious circumstances. They give them shelter, food and clothing. And then they set to work filling out tedious forms and linking the homeless vets to social services and programs provided by Veterans Affairs Canada.

Recently published research shows that a typical homeless veteran in Canada is 55 years old and left the armed forces 27 years ago after six or seven years of service. Most are single or divorced and are better educated than most of the others living on the street.

Most served on a base rather than in war zones. Upon leaving the Armed Forces, they had a terrible time adjusting to civilian life, turning mainly to alcohol or perhaps drugs as a crutch.

The drinking often started during the vets' military experience, says researcher Susan Ray, since it was a core part of the military culture. When faced with a tumultuous return to civilian life, these vets kept drinking, found themselves depressed, and sank into a spiral. A few years later, they were homeless -- some of them long term, some of them sporadically.

It's a spiral Lowther knows well. After his second tour in Bosnia, he recalls his boss advising soldiers grappling with the trauma they'd seen to drink up.

"He told us, 'What you do is take three shots of whisky before you go to bed,"' Lowther recalls.

Ray and her University of Western Ontario colleague Cheryl Forchuk interviewed 54 homeless vets in the country's first academic attempt to figure out who they are and why they are on the street.

Their research was paid for by the federal government and their recommendations were handed to Veterans Affairs Canada this summer.

Specifically, they want Ottawa to extend their transition services for vets into years, instead of the current six months. The services would be aimed at teaching life skills, improving mental health and preventing homelessness by spotting addiction and alcoholism early.

The homeless vets told the researchers they would also benefit from having more Veterans Affairs outreach workers coming to them and explaining how to qualify for government support.

Veterans Affairs, for its part, says it is already doing this in Canada's biggest cities, pointing to outreach projects in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. And it works on a less formal basis with community groups in 50 other towns and cities across the country.

Indeed, front-line volunteers say nothing but good things in their dealings with Veterans Affairs.

But it's not enough, especially as they prepare for the fall-out of the Afganistan effort, says Dave Gordon, executive director of the Royal Canadian Legion's Ontario Command.

Ray's research and work in the United States shows the problems leading to homelessness don't arise immediately after a military operation, he adds, but a few years later.

He and his team, in cooperation with a Veterans Affairs outreach worker, have spent the last year or so seeking out homeless vets and then arranging for shelter and social services. They've assisted 65 people so far, finding accommodation for about 30 of those.

 

 

Canadian Response to Soldiers' Needs, Reflect on USA?

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Standing a few discreet metres away from those selling Remembrance Day poppies at shopping centres across the country this week will be the ragged, faceless and forlorn pleading with people for their spare change.

Many of them once wore the smart, crisply pressed uniforms of Canada's military forces and they have become a small army of homeless veterans. That army will undoubtedly grow in size as troops returning from Afghanistan absorb the horrors of a decade of fighting there.

They're struggling with alcoholism and addictions. They often lack everyday skills like financial planning. And they often don't know where to turn to put their life back on track.

But homeless veterans also have a natural community of support that is quickly learning more about who they are, how they ended up on the street, and how to help them.

Across the country, small organizations of former soldiers are taking matters into their own hands, actively seeking out their homeless peers and matching them up with shelter, social services and government programs.

"We call ourselves 'ground support,"' said Jim Lowther, who started up the Veterans Emergency Transition Services network in Halifax, which is now being copied in several different provinces. "We stick with them until they get back on their feet. It's been really successful."

The volunteers are often effective at a very local level, helping dozens of vets off their city streets. But they are frustrated at the lack of a larger plan and bracing for the inevitable wave of Afghan vets as they process their experiences from home.

"It's absolutely wonderful that the vets are looking after their own. But at the end of the day, we need a different way of dealing with homelessness that would ensure that the second you touch the sector, all of a sudden you're plugged in to the services and supports you need in a seamless way," said York University's Stephen Gaetz, director of the Canadian Homelessness Research Network.

Lowther and his crew track down vets on the street or search for those living in precarious circumstances. They give them shelter, food and clothing. And then they set to work filling out tedious forms and linking the homeless vets to social services and programs provided by Veterans Affairs Canada.

Recently published research shows that a typical homeless veteran in Canada is 55 years old and left the armed forces 27 years ago after six or seven years of service. Most are single or divorced and are better educated than most of the others living on the street.

Most served on a base rather than in war zones. Upon leaving the Armed Forces, they had a terrible time adjusting to civilian life, turning mainly to alcohol or perhaps drugs as a crutch.

The drinking often started during the vets' military experience, says researcher Susan Ray, since it was a core part of the military culture. When faced with a tumultuous return to civilian life, these vets kept drinking, found themselves depressed, and sank into a spiral. A few years later, they were homeless -- some of them long term, some of them sporadically.

It's a spiral Lowther knows well. After his second tour in Bosnia, he recalls his boss advising soldiers grappling with the trauma they'd seen to drink up.

"He told us, 'What you do is take three shots of whisky before you go to bed,"' Lowther recalls.

Ray and her University of Western Ontario colleague Cheryl Forchuk interviewed 54 homeless vets in the country's first academic attempt to figure out who they are and why they are on the street.

Their research was paid for by the federal government and their recommendations were handed to Veterans Affairs Canada this summer.

Specifically, they want Ottawa to extend their transition services for vets into years, instead of the current six months. The services would be aimed at teaching life skills, improving mental health and preventing homelessness by spotting addiction and alcoholism early.

The homeless vets told the researchers they would also benefit from having more Veterans Affairs outreach workers coming to them and explaining how to qualify for government support.

Veterans Affairs, for its part, says it is already doing this in Canada's biggest cities, pointing to outreach projects in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. And it works on a less formal basis with community groups in 50 other towns and cities across the country.

Indeed, front-line volunteers say nothing but good things in their dealings with Veterans Affairs.

But it's not enough, especially as they prepare for the fall-out of the Afganistan effort, says Dave Gordon, executive director of the Royal Canadian Legion's Ontario Command.

Ray's research and work in the United States shows the problems leading to homelessness don't arise immediately after a military operation, he adds, but a few years later.

He and his team, in cooperation with a Veterans Affairs outreach worker, have spent the last year or so seeking out homeless vets and then arranging for shelter and social services. They've assisted 65 people so far, finding accommodation for about 30 of those.

He is now expanding his program to other Ontario communities such as the military town of Petawawa, Oshawa and Ottawa.

But Gordon sees a need for a more permanent structure. He is in the early stages of setting up a long-term housing facility for vets in need, that would not just supply the basics of life but also teach life skills and provide health and social services.

"But I think we're hitting the tip of the iceberg," Gordon said. "There's a need for a national program."

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