Mr. John Higenbottam, PhD Co Chair
Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health
702-141 Laurier Avenue West
Dear Mr Higenbottam:
Thank you for your letters in support of the Mood Disorders Society of Canada’s recent report, Out of Sight, Not out of Mind.
I have noted your concerns about those who struggle with mental health conditions, and I certainly agree with you that operational stress injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorder and depression, present a great challenge to Canadian Forces members, Veterans and their loved ones.
Veterans Affairs Canada is committed to improving the quality of life of Veterans and their families living with mental health conditions. The Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada have a network of 17 mental health clinics located across Canada to ensure that those with mental health conditions related to their military service have access to specialized care, including early intervention and ongoing treatment.
Peer support services are also available to Canadian Forces members, Veterans and their families through the innovative Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) program-another joint collaboration of Veterans Affairs Canada and National Defence. Through the OSISS program, trained peer support coordinators who have experienced a mental health condition offer non-clinical support, including referrals to government and community services.
These supports, together with the comprehensive rehabilitation services and financial and health care programs under the New Veterans Charter, form part of Veterans Affairs Canada’s broader mental health strategy to promote the wellness and independence of Veterans.
I commend the work of the Mood Disorders Society of Canada to raise awareness of PTSD and to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness. It may interest you to know that I provided the opening remarks at a series of roundtable discussions organized by the Society last October. The report, Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind, is the result of those discussions.
I am pleased to inform you that Veterans Affairs Canada has reviewed the report and is following up with the Mood Disorders Society with regard to the recommendations.
If you wish to obtain more information about Veterans Affairs Canada’s mental health strategy, please contact Ms. Lina Carrese, Scientific Director of the Department’s National Centre for Operational Stress Injuries. Ms. Carrese can be reached by telephone at 514-457-3440, extension 2285, or by e-mail at Lina.Carrese@vac-acc.gc.ca.
Again, thank you for writing and for your interest in the care and well-being of the men and women who selflessly serve our country. I hope that the information provided is helpful.
Steven Blaney, P.C., M.P.