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.


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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