OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 7, 2012) - The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, today extended his congratulations to members of the Defence Team for their important contribution and participation in the 5th Annual International Stigma Conference organized by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
"The general health needs and mental health of military personnel are a priority for the Government of Canada," said Minister MacKay. "I applaud the leadership of our Defence research and medical community for their engagement in this important national dialogue and in recognizing the importance of reducing stigma surrounding mental illnesses."
Several members of the Canadian Forces (CF), Defence Research and Development Canada, and leading civilian experts within the Department of National Defence participated in the world's largest conference aimed at sharing best practices to overcome stigma in the workplace.
The Chief of Military Personnel, Rear-Admiral Andrew Smith spoke at the conference and highlighted the CF Be the Difference command initiative of engaging leaders at all levels to instil a working environment and cultural climate that better understands mental illness and encourages those suffering to seek treatment.
"The Canadian Forces are in a unique position to support those facing mental health challenges, and to create a climate that encourages care-seeking and reinforces social support," said Rear-Admiral Smith. "We have worked hard to ensure that those who are away from the workplace recovering from an injury or illness, whether physical or mental, continue to receive support and remain in contact with their military colleagues and leaders, as we know this has a tremendous impact on their recovery and return to work."
The CF senior social worker, Lt.-Col. Suzanne Bailey, spoke about the CF's robust pre and post deployment mental health programs aimed at ensuring both military personnel and their families are best equipped for the stressors associated with deployment.
"The Road to Mental Readiness program educates members of the Canadian Forces on psychological reactions to stress and how they can be mitigated. The program emphasizes the importance of being mentally ready and having a strong social support system," said Lt.-Col. Bailey. "It is equally important for family members and leaders at all levels to be able to recognize stress in their loved ones and in their personnel. Often, it is those around us that see the early signs of mental distress and who are in the best position to help personnel seek help."
The CF mental health program is delivered by approximately 378 military and civilian mental health providers and support staff in 26 mental health clinics across the country. Each year, CAN$38.6 million is spent to provide mental health care to CF personnel.