Increased mental health funding misses the mark – soldier
Increased funding misses the mark – soldier
By: By Megan Sarrazin
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 19, 2012 06:00 am
Canadian Forces bases across the country will soon have more mental health practitioners on staff, thanks to an $11.4-million cash injection.
The federal government announced last week that it will hire at least 51 additional staff, including psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers, at bases across Canada.
“The health needs, including the mental health needs, of military personnel are my No. 1 priority in this role and I am committed to doing everything I can to provide the care needed for those defending our country,” said defence minister Peter McKay.
The money is being permanently reallocated to the health-care budget, increasing the annual mental health investment to $50 million.
Between 2003 and 2009, the federal government invested $98 million under the Mental Health Initiative to increase the number of mental health practitioners on Canadian Forces bases to 447. There are currently 378 mental health providers on staff.
Major Mark Campbell, a St. Albert resident, applauded the announcement, but said it will only benefit a small amount of military personnel with mental health concerns.
“The announcement is a double-edged sword,” he said. “For people in the military, this is a good deal, but you know what, the only people who are going to be able to stay in the military with PTSD are those with relatively mild cases.”
He said the remainder will likely be medically released and forced to seek help from civilian mental health professionals.
Campbell, 47, lost both legs while on his second tour in Afghanistan more than four years ago. When he stepped on an improvised explosive device June 2, 2008, it took most of his hearing in his right ear, some of his short-term memory and one of his testicles.
It also left him with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder. Campbell currently sees a team of military mental health practitioners on a weekly basis, but expects to be medically released within the year.
He said he fears he won’t be able to find qualified professionals in the civilian world who can treat his complex disorders.
Campbell said the largest contributor to his mental health disorders is the stress he has suffered trying to get adequate financial compensation for his injuries, after the federal government decreased amounts payable to injured soldiers in 2006.
“I can deal with the disability. What I can’t deal with is coming home after 31 years of service and finding out that I’ve been screwed halfway through the war and that my service counts for nothing,” he said.
He is part of a class-action lawsuit taking shape in British Columbia that is seeking to ensure military personnel are adequately compensated for their injuries.
More mental health patients expected
Alberta Health Services spokesperson Kerry Williamson said mental health clinics in Alberta experience greater demand in both spring and fall.
“In terms of why we see increases in the fall, no one really knows,” he said. “There are many theories as to why demand and need for mental health services increases in the fall and also in the early spring, but there’s really no definitive or known cause.”
He said this trend is not isolated to the province and is something seen worldwide.
The St. Albert Mental Health Clinic currently has a 20-day wait for service, which is down from roughly 42 days six months ago. Williamson said this number is expected to increase as fall approaches.
Clinics in the greater Edmonton area currently have wait times from 13 to 54 days.
“All of our wait times are done on a triage basis. It’s similar to the way we would do it at the emergency department,” he said, adding urgent cases can be seen sooner.
Suicide continues to be a leading cause of death in the province, with Alberta seeing more than 400 suicides each year. More than half of these deaths are of men aged 25 to 55.
Individuals seeking mental health assistance can contact the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.