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The following is a summary of the CDA Institute roundtable “Caring for our Own” held in Ottawa on 19 March 2015. These roundtable discussions are held under the Chatham House Rule. This summary reflects Analyst Andres Gallacher‘s perception of the discussion. The CDA Institute thanks Lockheed Martin Canada for its generous sponsorship of the 2015 Roundtable Discussion Series. If you would like to contribute to the discussion on this topic, comment below, or to submit a blog post for consideration, please send to this blog’s editor at david.mcdonough@cdainstitute.ca

There is a growing need for a comprehensive view on injuries, and support for military members and their families. The best approach to take is logistic and integrative; focused on the member, employment, family support, CF health services and what has the greatest effect for serving members in addressing their concerns. Around 1000 military members will medically release this year. 72 percent of Regular Force veterans will get a job right after they release with a salary equal or higher to that which they had in the CAF, similar with Reservists. However, 6-7 percent of members will not get a job (most are medically released), and it is here where the bulk of the efforts are focused.

A structured and dynamic approach to ill and injured members has been introduced, which provides a framework of care with attention to: recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration. Members must be employable, deployable and fit. New state of the art programs are available for rehabilitation services, which include mental, physical and spiritual care. Previously, injured members would go to a social worker, family service worker and hospital worker for different support services. Now, with the specifically Integrated Personnel Support Centres, services are coordinated. There is now a continuity of care between doctors, and digitized notes, which allow electronic files to be sent to Veterans Affairs and helps reduce wait times. These are the sort of advancements that have been pursued.

In addition there have been significant developments in treating mental health issues. There is now an instant walk-in referral service for the Mental Health program. It provides both clinical and non-clinical adjuncts for service members. There is a tremendous focus on the stages of mental health, what to anticipate, and signs of stress, for better future prevention. Educational awareness goes a long way and assists in identifying signs and addressing issues early on.

There is no perfect solution, and work still must be done to normalize the situation and remove the stigma around asking for help. This is improving. Mentors who experienced mental illnesses or injuries are taking active involvement to help de-sensitize trauma. Spouses come forward as well asking for assistance. Members who continue to serve engage in the Soldier-On program. The essential ingredient in these successes is caring for the families and providing support services. There are also Military Family Resource Centres, 32 across the country, that tackle mental health and family counselling. This is important, as 85 percent of families live off base.

Finding meaningful work is an area that is also focused on. The CAF is an institution which indoctrinates giving to others, and meaningful work can help provide a new sense of purpose. A weakness of the CAF is that members are not prepared for the civilian job market. It comes as a shock that they now have to write resumes and search or apply for jobs or perform interviews. It can be especially difficult for those with the added complexity of PTSD or injuries and the fear of stigma in wider Canadian society. There are a large amount of employers in Military Employer Transition program who are specifically looking for retired military members and want to help with the transition.

However, more can be done to prepare members for the lifestyle post-uniform. Communication is crucial as it breeds confidence. Such traditionalists like structure and chain of command. To reduce stigma, it is important to continue to demonstrate the success of the programs. Trust and confidence are the keys to reducing stigma and increasing accessibility. It is true that military members must be fit physically and mentally, and the CAF does not waiver from that standard. However, that does not mean that the first time a member has an issue that they are out of the CAF. We must take care of our own.

The following powerpoint slides were posted with permission from the presenter: CDAI-Caring-for-our-Own.pdf.

Andres Gallacher is an Analyst at CDA Institute who is currently finishing his Honours BA in Global Politics at Carleton University. He has previously worked in Federal and Provincial politics as well as the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI). His research interests focus on international developments in the Asia-​Pacific Region as well as international security.

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