Mental Health

Background

Veterans Affairs Canada is committed to ensuring eligible Veterans, retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) members, and their families have the mental health support they need, when they need it.

Veterans Affairs Canada provides access to a wide range of mental health services, support and information for Veterans and their families.

Quick facts

  • Of all Veterans, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) who received a benefit from Veterans Affairs Canada, 18% received a disability benefit for a mental health condition.

  • Seventy-three (73%) of these received it specifically for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

  • Fourteen percent (14%) of members who deployed to Afghanistan have received a Veterans Affairs Canada pension or award for a mental health condition.

  • Fifty-two percent (52%) of Canadian Armed Forces Veterans, with a disability benefit related to service in Afghanistan, received a Veterans Affairs Canada pension or award for PTSD.

Mental health supports

Veterans Affairs Canada funds a network of 11 operational stress injury (OSI) clinics across the country (10 outpatient and one inpatient), as well as satellite clinic service sites closer to where Veterans live. These clinics are complemented by the Canadian Armed Forces network of seven operational trauma and stress support centres (OTSSC) that serve mainly still-serving military personnel. The network continues to grow. More OSI Clinic service sites will open across the country.

OSI clinics offer access (through referral) to mental health professionals that provide assessment and treatment services to serving Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members, Veterans and RCMP members. Each OSI clinic has a team of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses, and other specialized clinicians who understand the experience and unique needs of Veterans.

To further improve accessibility, each OSI clinic provides services through telehealth (distance health services) to support those living in remote areas. Veterans with operational stress injuries also have the option of using provincial and private health services available in the community.

Veterans Affairs Canada also has a well-established national network of around 4,000 mental health professionals who deliver mental health services to Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other operational stress injuries.

The Veterans Affairs Canada Assistance Service (1-800-268-7708) or TDD (1-800-567-5803) offers a 24-hour toll-free help line, face-to-face mental health counselling, bereavement support, and referral services, to military and RCMP Veterans, and their families.

The Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) program offers confidential peer support to CAF members, Veterans and their families impacted by an operational stress injury. The support is provided by trained peer support and family peer support coordinators and volunteers, who typically have first-hand experience with these injuries.

Online support

Veterans Affairs Canada has collaborated with a number of partners to develop a series of free online and mobile applications which can be downloaded through iTunes and Google Play, which can be used by Veterans and their families.

PTSD Coach Canada and OSI Connect are self-assessment tools that provide information about OSIs such as PTSD, where to find support and ways to help manage symptoms and stress. These mobile apps provide valuable information to CAF members, Veterans and their family members impacted by an OSI.

The Operational Stress Injury Resource for Caregivers is a self-directed online tool for caregivers and families of CAF members and Veterans living with an OSI. It includes information on OSIs, their impacts on the family, and how to support a CAF member/Veteran through the treatment and recovery process. It provides self-care, problem-solving and stress management techniques for managing the challenges of being a caregiver.

Veterans and Mental Health is an online tutorial designed for anyone wanting to learn about service-related Veteran mental health issues or supporting a loved one with a service–related mental illness.

Recent and upcoming mental health initiatives

Medically released Veterans and their families have access to seven Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC) sites across the country, as well as the Family Helpline and familyforce.ca website, as part of the Veteran Family Program. This program is part of a four-year pilot to provide Veterans and their families with access to the Military Family Support Program—traditionally only available to still-serving Canadian Armed Forces members.

The Government of Canada has launched a Canadian Veteran-specific version of Mental Health First Aid in partnership with the Mental Health Commission of Canada. This program provides mental health literacy training to the Veterans community across Canada.

The Government of Canada is providing funding to the Mood Disorder Society of Canada to provide skills development training and support services to unemployed Veterans with a mental health condition to assist them in establishing a new career.

A partnership between VAC and Saint Elizabeth Health Care has also recently been established to design, develop, and deliver, in summer of 2017, an Online Caregiver Training Program to support informal caregivers of Veterans with an OSI.

Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence intend to create two new centres of excellence in Veterans' care, including one with a specialization in mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder and related issues.

Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence are also developing a joint suicide prevention strategy for Canadian Armed Forces personnel and Veterans.

These mental health services and supports are examples of how Veterans Affairs Canada is delivering on the commitment of “Care, Compassion and Respect” for our men and women who have served Canada and their families.

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