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Record of Discussion – Mental Health Advisory Group Teleconference

Wednesday, February 01, 2017
1300 – 1430 EDT

In Attendance

  • Sapper (Retired) Aaron Bedard
  • Michael Blais, Canadian Veterans Advocacy
  • Dr. Karen Cohen, Canadian Psychological Association
  • Dave Gallson, Mood Disorders Society of Canada
  • Glynne Hines, Royal Canadian Legion (member Co-chair)
  • Ed Mantler, Mental Health Commission of Canada
  • Warrant Officer (Retired) Brian McKenna
  • Colonel Scott McLeod, Deputy Surgeon-General, Canadian Armed Forces
  • Robert Thibeau, Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones

Regrets

  • Sergeant Brian Harding
  • Dr. Ruth Lanius, University of Western Ontario
  • Kerry Mould, Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping
  • Dr. Patrick Smith, Canadian Mental Health Association
  • Dr. Don Richardson, Canadian Psychiatric Association

Observer

  • Amanda Jane, Deputy Ombudsman, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Centre of Excellence

The Member Co-chair noted that in December 2016 Dr. Patrick Smith circulated a report that reflects the Group’s discussions during the summer of 2016 on the Centre of Excellence for Mental Health. The report will serve as a more detailed record of the advice provided to the Minister of Veterans Affairs in a pre-2016 Stakeholder Summit briefing and at the Summit itself. The Member Co-chair will send the report to the Minister with copies to departmental officials. Dr. Smith was thanked in absentia for preparing the report.

Mental Health Advisory Group Priorities

Members discussed priorities for the Group’s work moving forward and agreed that suicide prevention will be the major focus. Also considered priorities are marijuana for medical purposes, Mefloquine and service dogs.

The Group also expressed interest in assessing the effectiveness of programs and treatments related to mental health conditions. It was agreed that the Advisory Group itself could not undertake this work but that presentations at meetings about the state of research on issues the group will address, such as marijuana for medical purposes, would be beneficial. It was noted that the Canadian Armed Forces evaluates programs through a treatment standardization committee, a formal process that looks at an established set of criteria. The CAF is also looking at programs that might help treatment but that are not scientifically based.

The group discussed a more open-minded approach to assessing program effectiveness, noting the distinction between evidenced-based assessments and anecdotal evidence. They felt that sticking strictly to science was limiting and noted that “practice-based evidence” can help support programs that have consistently demonstrated factors that net promising results but which would not meet rigorous medical evaluation criteria.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Mental Health Advisory Group will be face to face in Ottawa. Date options will be circulated to determine members’ availability.

The focus of the meeting will be suicide prevention. A draft agenda was circulated for comment. Members want to hear from Veterans Affairs Canada officials on the VAC Suicide Prevention Strategy and from mental health organizations, a stakeholder organization to provide a different perspective by providing peer support, and a support program that addresses Post Traumatic Stress and Operational Stress Injury in military personnel, veterans and first responders. Researchers in the field of suicide will also be approached to present to the Group.

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