Last week, 3 Canadian soldiers committed suicide due to post-traumatic stress injuries. These incidents have raised many questions within the Canadian Armed Forces, or CAF, regarding the availability of treatment and the quality of them. I also just learned that a friend of mine took his life here in base. He deployed two times in Bosnia and one in Kandahar. Even though he didn’t have a PTSD diagnosis, I know that he suffered in silence. He was the kind of guy who didn’t want to look weak to others.

In 2011, 22 Canadian full-time soldiers committed suicide. The 2012 records are not yet available. No records are kept for the reserve soldiers, which makes no sense at all. A military psychiatrist confirmed that there has not been an increase in the suicide rates among the Canadian Forces soldiers.

Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with heavy anxiety, I find this news even more troubling. It seems like the available mental health services are not the same everywhere. Suicide is often the last resort for a soldier who cannot deal with his symptoms anymore.

I strongly believe that we are lacking some serious resources regarding the soldiers mental health, even if the VA and the government are supposedly pouring money into those services. We are in a period where they need help fast, not where they have to wait a few weeks before being able to talk with someone.

Based on my personal experience with the mental health service here in CFB Valcartier, I did notice an increase in the number of patients. In 2010, I used to be able to get an appointment pretty much when I wanted, but nowadays it can take up to 2 months. Although it is getting harder to get services, I cannot say that I don’t get any. But there are other bases around Canada where the mental health services are seriously lacking. This is an old, last modified in August 2013, but pretty clear report of the difference between bases.

It seems like even if the numbers of soldiers suffering from all types of stress-related injuries are growing fast, and the CAF aren’t able to keep up. Organizations like Military Minds, founded by a friend of mine, Chris Dupee, have started to emerge due to that. More than 83,000 people from all over the world now follow them on Facebook.

They are soldiers suffering from PTSD or any other OSI who selflessly give their time to be there to help others like them. It is such a great thing, because it gives the opportunity to any wounded soldiers to talk about their symptoms with people who understand. Mental health care providers are there to assist us, but many of them, if not all, haven’t seen combat nor lived through situations like the people from Military Minds. They even created a crisis group to be able to intervene directly over the phone or in person with members who are about to hurt themselves or the people around them. I know for a fact that it has saved a few lives.

What amazes me is that the community created by Military Minds is very powerful and has helped a lot of soldiers come forward and talk about their symptoms. Meanwhile, Veterans Affairs Canada has set up a crisis help line available 24 hours a day, but can take up to 48 hours before a counselor will call you back. They do make it clear that it’s not a therapy and it is clearly written that it “is not an emergency service.” Isn’t crisis and emergency pretty much the same?!