Government announces new military suicide prevention program
Published Saturday, October 7, 2017 1:58PM ADT
Veterans groups in the region say Ottawa’s plans to improve services and support for military members is a good first step, but they’re going to keep a close eye on the government to make sure it follows through.
On Friday, the federal government announced a new strategy to reduce the number of suicides within the armed forces with a program where the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs will work together.
Debbie Lowther is a co-founder of VETS Canada, a volunteer-led, non-profit corporation based in the Nova Scotia that provides veterans with emergency transition services.
Lowther’s husband has retired from the military and now helps provide support for fellow veterans.
“We have two veterans right now who are experiencing suicidal thoughts, we have volunteers on the ground, working with them,” said Debbie, Friday.
Lowther said she wants to see a 24 hour help line for veterans established by staff who have military experience.
“A veteran can reach out to his Veteran’s Affairs case manager and hold a lot of information back, but, enter one of our volunteers, who is a veteran or still serving member and all of a sudden they open up,” she said.
Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion attended the Ottawa announcement and said it was pleased with the plan, but also plans to watch carefully to ensure that every part of the program is implemented over time.
Retired military advocate, Tim Dunne said the program now comes years after the end of the Canadian military’s involvement in Afghanistan and he wonders why it has taken so long to take measures.
"We lost 158 soldiers in the time we were in Afghanistan and since we've left Afghanistan, another 78 have been killed, died at their own hand, that's half the number who were killed in Afghanistan,” Dunne said.
Dunne also said he thinks these services need to become available to military personal from the day they enlist.
“The people in the military need to be trained, educated and made aware of the complications that can be introduced into their lives from these operations from the day they enroll.”
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ron Shaw.