Military psychiatrist defends treatment of troubled soldiers, veterans
Published Thursday, January 9, 2014 10:13PM EST
A military psychiatrist is defending the care provided to troubled members of the Canadian Forces after six soldiers died of suicide in as many weeks.
A day after the husband of retired Cpl. Leona MacEachern revealed that she intentionally drove her car into an oncoming transport truck in Alberta on Christmas Day, Canadian Forces psychiatrist Maj. Paul Sedge insisted that officials are doing everything they can to support soldiers and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sedge told CTV News that the military is in the final stages of hiring 54 new health care support workers. But since the latest string of suicides began, National Defence has only hired one new social worker, one nurse, and one psychiatrist.
“We've stepped up these mental health clinics. We've increased the size, increased training, and increased quality of care that's delivered,” Sedge said. “So every base now has some form of mental health clinic.”
However, many advocacy groups say National Defence punishes soldiers who go public with their struggles with mental illness.
That’s why one group has stepped up with its own support system, independent of the military.
A new toll-free support line, 1-855-373-8387, was launched today, established for soldiers by other soldiers.
Many say an existing military-run hotline for soldiers in distress is ineffective.
“You don't get hope calling a 1-800 (number) and somebody saying we're going to get back to you in three days,” said veterans’ advocate Kevin Berry. “Getting back to you in three business days when you're suicidal? That's not going to work. That's not going to help anyone.”
Meanwhile, the opposition is blaming the Conservative government for not reacting fast enough to the mental health crisis in the military.
“If they don't want to step up to the plate, then guess what, get out of the way and get someone else in who knows how to do it,” said Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis.
With a report from CTV’s Richard Madan