cbc.ca (© Copyright: (C) Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, http://www.cbc.ca/aboutcbc/discover/termsofuse.html#Rss)
Updated: Mon, 11 Aug 2014 15:32:20 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

1 in 6 soldiers affected by mental-health, alcohol-related issues



DND reports the number of Canadian Forces personnel who took their own lives increased from 12 in 2010 to 20 last year and Patricia Varga, Dominion President of the Royal Canadian Legion, said she believes that number will rise again as a result of the cuts. Reuters

DND reports the number of Canadian Forces personnel who took their own lives increased from 12 in 2010 to 20 last year and Patricia Varga, Dominion President of the Royal Canadian Legion, said she believes that number will rise again as a result of the cuts. Reuters

Nearly one in six full-time members of the Canadian Forces experienced symptoms of mental-health or alcohol-related disorders over several months last year, according to a Statistics Canada survey.

The Canadian Forces Mental Health Survey measured symptoms of six mental-health or alcohol-related disorders in close to 6,700 full-time members of the Canadian Forces. The survey was conducted from April to August 2013.

The most common disorder reported was a major depressive episode, with eight per cent of full-time members reporting symptoms in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Depression was defined in the survey as at least two weeks of persistent depressed mood or loss of interest in normal activities along with other symptoms, including lower energy, loss of appetite, hopelessness or suicidal thoughts.

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were reported in more than five per cent of full-time members, while just under five per cent reported experiencing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.

A Statistics Canada release about the survey defined PTSD symptoms as persisting for a minimum of one month and including a reliving of a traumatic event or injury, disturbance of day-to-day activities, avoidance, irritability, outbursts of anger and difficulty sleeping, while generalized anxiety disorder was defined as a pattern of frequent, persistent worry or excessive anxiety lasting at least six months.

Other symptoms reported in the survey included:

- Panic disorder (3.4 per cent), defined as recurrent, unexpected panic attacks in the absence of real danger.

- Alcohol abuse (2.5 per cent), characterized by a pattern of recurrent alcohol abuse where the sufferer either fails to perform at work, school or home, uses in physically hazardous situations, or suffers recurrent alcohol related problems, and continues to use despite social or interpersonal problems. 

- Alcohol dependence (two per cent), characterized by repeated use of alcohol leading to at least three of these effects in a 12-month period: increased tolerance, withdrawal, increased consumption, inability to quit drinking, lost time due to recovery, reduced activity and continued use despite ill effects.

Statistics Canada interviewed full-time Forces members on military bases in each province and territory.

Participants were selected based on a random sample of the total population of full-time Canadian Forces members. A margin of error could not be stated. 

Further analysis will be released in November this year, including the findings from 1,500 reservists who were also interviewed for the survey. 

Struggle to hire mental health workers

Red tape and a shallow applicant pool are hindering the military's efforts to hire mental health service workers, according to the chief of military personnel.

In emails obtained through Access to Information, Lt.-Gen. David Millar, who at the time of the correspondence was a Major-General, warns Deputy Minister Richard Fadden that a lengthy hiring process and a lack of eligible applicants is hampering the hiring process.

"Any one applicant will have their name in with many employers and will jump from one to the next during the process taking the best offer. This is where the competition comes in," he wrote to Fadden on Jan. 11.

"In a more general sense, the demand for MH [mental health] practitioners is on the rise across Canada," Millar adds.

Since the writing of these emails, a spokesperson for the Department of Defence said in a statement that recruiting has paid off and it is close to meeting the hiring requirements. Including filling 50 of the 54 positions needed to meet its baseline requirement of 447 health services workers. 

According to the emails, the military wants to hire 87 more full-time health services workers, to support additional programs and requirements.

more video