Remember the living, as well as the dead

Dara Squires (@ReadilyAParent) wrote a thought-provoking piece published in the Western Star (a newspaper based in Corner Brook, Newfoundland) today: Of statues and soldiers … and the ones left behind. It is a fictionalized account of a child whose father has come home from another military deployment and is suffering from an untreated case of PTSD. Mark (the child) is sad that while his father is now home, he really isn’t home yet – his ‘mind is still over there’.

These statistics from her article scare me. Bolding is mine:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects eight per cent of all Canadian soliders. For those in heavy combat areas that number goes as high as 25 per cent. For every soldier affected, there is a family: wife, children, parents, siblings that also deal with the damage — to their family member, their lives, and their homes. This is not just a military issue. This is an issue that affects our communities, our schools, our workplaces.

Mark isn’t real. Reality is even harsher. Soldiers with PTSD are two to four times more likely to become divorced than those without. Family members are at risk of developing secondary PTSD. About half of veterans with PTSD will physically assault a family member. Almost all will verbally assault spouses and children. The New Veterans Charter addresses some of the complex family needs of those being treated for PTSD. But without personnel to treat the veterans themselves, services for their families are hard to access.

While mental health services in Canada are lacking at best, shouldn’t we make mental health support for our veterans a higher priority? They risked their lives to fight for the freedom and safety of others. Shouldn’t we be doing a better job supporting them in their reintegration into civilian society? Military families shouldn’t be afraid of what will happen after a soldier returns home. It’s agonizing enough to be afraid for them while they are away.

I have never served in the military, and I am truly grateful to the men and women who are brave enough to step forward and serve their country. When I see a “Support Our Troops” magnet on a car, I always think to myself, “Support our troops. Bring them home.” We need to do everything we can to keep our soldiers from having to go to war in the first place. When they do go, we need to offer real support when they return. Wearing our poppies, saying thank you and stopping to remember are important, valuable things to do. But they aren’t enough.We need better mental health services in this country. Especially for our military.

Commemorating the dead becomes meaningless if we cannot help those who are still here. We need to remember all of our soldiers, not just the fallen ones.


Random thoughts on the upcoming Canadian election

While this post is political in nature, I’ve done my best to keep it non-partisan. I’m not a die-hard supporter of any particular party, so I’m not endorsing any party’s view over another.

This may be my nerdy side showing, but I love voting in elections. Municipal, provincial, federal, student council, it doesn’t matter – they all have excitement. I like watching the numbers go up on election night and seeing who won, whether they’re an incumbent, an upstart or a dark horse.

As much as I enjoy the excitement of elections, it’s hard to get past the cynicism and distrust I have of so many politicians. So many promise the moon to get people to vote for them and then spend their term explaining why the promises they made just can’t materialize into change. I don’t trust politicians who seem to be calculating every move they make and are in it more for their own fame and legacy versus actually being the voice of their constituents. This makes me naive, doesn’t it?

Mom the Vote!I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the #momthevote movement on Twitter and Facebook. Anything that gets people talking about the issues and gets them out to vote is okay with me. Family-friendly policies have become more important to me since I became a parent, and I’m grateful for being able to read in one place about how all the parties plan to treat Canadian families. I’m also enjoying the debate going on and it’s making me think more about the issues up for debate in this election (and the issues that aren’t being debated which is telling in itself).

I don’t understand how politicians who cross party lines (or go independent) midway through their term can keep their position without a by-election. Their constituents may have voted for them for personal reasons, but odds are they voted for them because they were affiliated with a certain party. If everyone in a riding voted for a person because they belonged to Party X, and that person joins Party Y half way through, they may no longer represent the wishes of the riding. If the constituents really like that person, they can certainly vote them back in but I think constituents should be given a choice.

It alo really bugs me when people say “I don’t want my tax dollars going to <something that won’t benefit them directly but will benefit many other Canadians>. I expect my tax dollars to go into a big pool. That pool is then used to dole out money to all the different services and things Canadians want and need. I can’t and won’t use every benefit my taxes help pay for, but that doesn’t mean other Canadians don’t need them. Since we’re a country, we’re all in this together and it takes all of us to pay the bills.

Please get out and vote on May 2nd. Make sure your voice is heard.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.
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