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Updated: Mon, 27 Jan 2014 08:33:25 GMT | By The Canadian Press, cbc.ca

DND hiring mental health professionals following suicides



Two Canadian soldiers wait for a Chinook helicopter carrying Harper to land near Tarnack Farms, Afghanistan. (© Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Two Canadian soldiers wait for a Chinook helicopter carrying Harper to land near Tarnack Farms, Afghanistan. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

A budgetary turf war that has stymied the hiring of mental health professionals at National Defence may be finally coming to an end, now that the military is facing a suicide crisis.

The department says it's now in the process of hiring up to 54 people to fill a need that was first identified a decade ago when Canada's war in Afghanistan began to heat up.

Defence sources say the department's inability to fill the desperately needed positions has the taint of deficit-fighting politics.

Both opposition parties say the fact soldiers have had to take their own lives to prompt the government to start moving on hiring more psychiatrists and other mental health personnel is "deeply shocking."

New Democrat Jack Harris and Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray say it's unconscionable, especially in light of stories they've heard from soldiers and their families who sometimes wait up to two years for access to counselling services.

Canada's Armed Forces have been rocked by several suicides over the past few months.

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