Military launches mental illness awareness campaign

Personal stories from soldiers will encourage others to seek needed treatment

The Canadian military is launching a campaign to encourage soldiers with mental illnesses, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to step forward and get the help they need.

A House of Commons defence committee report recommended military leadership publicly fight the stigma that exists in the military over PTSD.

The committee also recommended better training for senior officers to help them recognize when soldiers are in distress. The military should also conduct an audit to identify gaps in the mental health system, stated the report.

The campaign, called "Be the Difference," is designed to help educate Canadian Forces personnel and build a culture of understanding around issues relating to mental health. Members of the Canadian Forces will publicly share their struggles with mental illness, including depression, anxiety and substance abuse — considered "operational stress injuries" by the military.

"In Canada, where one in five people can expect to suffer from a mental illness at some point in their lifetimes, stigma around mental illness is still very strong. But if the Canadian Forces can succeed in educating its ranks that mental health is just as important as physical health, and that there's nothing shameful about having mental health problems, it will help the rest of our society to be more aware and accepting of mental health issues," said Taylor Alexander, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

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