Need to know: Money alone cannot address military mental health

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson lauds the government’s funding for troubled soldiers


Sean Kilpatrick/CP

“I put my life on the line to go to Afghanistan. I did a f—ing good job. And now I’m seen as broken.” —James Kirk, formerly of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery

Joyce Murray, the former candidate for the Liberal party’s leadership, paid a visit to Petawawa, Ont., a town with a military base about a two-hour drive northwest of Ottawa. Yesterday, Murray told the House of Commons that she’d heard some troubling things about soldiers with mental-health issues.

“I was told that to seek help is to risk getting kicked out of the armed forces and that the injured need twice the peer support that they are currently getting. I was told that delays in hiring health professionals are due to budget cuts.” she said. “Why is the minister blaming the injured and denying the critical gaps in the necessary supports for our women and men in uniform?”

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson stood to respond. He dismissed all of Murray’s comments as “completely untrue,” and went on to laud the government’s achievements on the file. “There have been unprecedented investments in this area. We have the highest ratio of mental health workers of all our NATO allies. We are getting the job done and we will continue to support the men and women in uniform, as well as the veterans in this country,” he said.

Completely untrue? Surely, there are shades of grey. Take, for example, James Kirk. He served in Afghanistan in 2007, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and endured five years in the military before his release in 2012. Kirk spoke to the National Post‘s John Ivison about his struggle to cope with PTSD while he remained on active duty. “We were told to get help. But all the injured guys were pushed off to the side. It made me feel like a piece of s—,” Kirk recalled. “It was like the leadership was saying ‘I don’t want you to infect or poison my guys.’ I was treated like a malingerer.”

Kirk’s not an isolated case, if you believe an unnamed army administrator quoted by Ivison. So, Nicholson can repeat at will how much the government’s spending on mental health for soldiers and veterans. But money doesn’t change culture, not on its own, and that’s what has gone unrecognized in the House of Commons as a spate of military suicides casts a grim shadow over parliamentary debate.


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Need to know: Money alone cannot address military mental health

  1. You know its funny, the more the government cuts back and lay people off in all departments, the more Harpers office and the PMO seems to swell in money. Here is the cons real approach to cutting taxpayers spending, the more they save from each department, the more they(cons)can spend on themselves and their base alone. Its not about saving the taxpayers, it about having more money for all the cronies in harpers office to spend on eCONomic Action Pan adds, Togo parties at taxpayers mansions around the world, make up(revlon preferably) lavish gifts and globetrotting around the world looking like your doing something, and doing nothing, and even use taxpayers money to move their agenda for the election of 2015. Remember, the more the cons save, the more they spend on themselves, and we are still paying for 12 corrupt members of the harper circle, in the PMO, who are trying to help cover up the biggest scandal, in the PMO in Canadian history..

  2. Is James Kirk suggesting that soldiers who’ve been diagnosed with PTSD should be allowed to remain on the front lines? That seems, um, insane.

    • Does “active duty” mean “on the front lines” or does it mean still employed, perhaps at a desk job or something else that might reduce stress?

    • That’s not what I got from the piece.

      What he appears to be saying is that soldiers with PTSD are suffering from a battle field injury and it isn’t contagious so they don’t need to be isolated from their comrades, Suffering from PTSD is hard enough, but removing the soldier from the team they trained and fought with and isolating them is not helpful to their recovery.
      It’s the process of removal from the network of their comrades that needs to be managed better and not add to the already existing situation filled with emotions.

  3. The unfortunate side of this is that the Liberals, if and when elected, will just do the same thing the Conservatives are doing . After all it was they that initiated the New Veteran’s Charter and all party’s voted for it.

  4. I will agree money alone will not address the issue, but a government hell bent on forcing veterans to go to court just to get what they were promised, cutting benefits, or dismissing veterans early to avoid paying their pensions is only making matters worse. This has been the thrust of this government for a long time, and its disgusting.

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