Seasons greetings from Niagara,
I hope that all is well and that you are enjoying the spirit of the holiday season. On behalf of Sylvain, Jerry, Barry and myself, I would extend to you at this time wishes for the very best of times as the year draws to an end, hopefully, you will be bless with the company of family and friends, good health and in the new year, prosperity in heart and soul.
Today, however, I would speak to the wounds of the mind many have experienced as a consequence of their service to Canada and the heightened sense of discord that many experience during the Christmas period. This issue has been identified by many recently, perhaps most noteworthy, General Rick Hillier, who has launched a dedicated PR campaign to encourage those who are suffering and considering suicide to reach out to their buddy's, to Send Up The Count.
This is a admirable course of action and the CVA, dedicated to providing solutions and suicide prevention recourse on a variety of levels, fully supports General Hillier's and others public quest to encourage those suffering from mental wounds to stand forth, reach out for help and, equally important, provide some assistance for those who have been called upon to save lives.
Many of us are not equipped to deal with the mental health wounds our brothers and sisters have sustained, dealing with a potentially suicidal crisis when their brother or sister in arms reaches out for help. Many are not cognizant of the symptoms that would indicate that the problem is more serious that we might expect, symptoms that are oft times inclined to be exacerbated during the festive season. Quite frankly, the experience can be terrifying, emotionally draining and I can assure you, there have been times when I have been left in tears, trembling, unable to sleep for days...
Fortunately, I have been blessed in those who have been attracted to the Canadians Veterans Advocacy's mission and our quest to ensure that compassion, understanding, and the appropriate professional resources, civilian, DND and VAC, are expediently applied to those who have sustained mental wounds.
I am grateful to Doctor Jane Storrie, President -Elect of the Ontario Psychologist Association and Dr Dee Rajska, C. Psych. Clinical Psychologist, who is my friend and author of a popular blog dedicated to military mental trauma. Having experienced a particularly troubling call last evening, I reached out to them this morning defining my concerns about the Send up the Count initiative and the need to present some protocols that those who have been sent the count, who have been called on to render help, some information to cope with and hopefully, effectively deal with situation with the compassion required.
We are a brother/sisterhood in arms, by definition we have been hardened, physically, emotionally, perhaps spiritually, by the journey we have embraced and the sacrifices we have made on behalf of our nation. Many are oblivious to the warning signs of a festering mental wound until the cycle of despair commences or tragically, our friends have taken their lives.
The time for change has come, the sacrifice of five valiant Canadians over the past month leaves us no recourse if we are to fulfill our obligation to the wounded. We must, serving or not, defeat the stigma, embrace the spirit of the warriors code and in that spirit, join together to assist our brothers and sisters who have been wounded of the mind and need our help if they are to heal, to enjoy the quality of life that many of those of us who have been wounded or injured enjoy.
The good doctors have provided some short guidelines, please, take the five minutes it will take to read to do so, you never know, my brother or sister, when it will be your turn, when your war or peace buddy will turn to you for help.
Will you be ready?
Will you answer the Patriot's call, for their is no greater definition of patriot that one who has sacrificed mind and/or body for his nation in war and peace?
Will have his/her Six?
Once again, special thanks to Doctors Storrie and Rajska for responding to my request in such an expedient manner and providing some guidelines that you might find useful in the near future. Pass the word, lets make this holiday season truly specialy, lets save a life or change a life, together, we can make a difference, we will prevail.
Michael L Blais CD
President/Founder - Canadian Veterans Advocacy
Buddy System guidelines - Suicide prevention information provided by Dr Jane Stprrie and Dr D Rasjka.
Service members and veterans who have experienced traumatic events may have feelings of anxiety, anger, guilt, sadness or isolation. These emotions are common and considered normal and expected responses to extraordinary situations. Some people go on to suffer from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, if they don't get the support they need, may become suicidal as they feel there is no escape or help for their symptoms.
Even if you are coping relatively well, you may know someone who isn't doing so good. Here is a list of things that should concern you:
Dramatic changes in mood
Thoughts about hurting or killing him or herself
Withdrawing from family and friends
Talking or writing about death or suicide
Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
Flashbacks or nightmares
Increased alcohol or drug use
Reckless or risky behavior
Poor anger control
Feeling anxious or hopeless.
It isn't easy to talk to someone about their suicidal thoughts and feelings, and some people are afraid that talking about it might push them to do it. Studies have shown, though, that this isn't the case and that talking openly and honestly about suicide has actually led people to reach out for help. Here are some things to remember:
Be yourself. Don't worry about having the right words. If you're concerned, your voice and manner will show it. And that's okay- it's lets the person know you care.
Listen. Be compassionate and non-judgemental. Let the suicidal person unload, vent or rage. Don't worry about how negative the conversation is- that they're talking at all is a positive thing.
Offer hope and reassurance. Help is available. There are people out there who are trained to deal with this- and people do get better.
Avoid arguing, or lecturing, or preaching, or minimizing their suffering.
Refuse to be sworn to secrecy. When a life is at stake, you may need to get help to keep someone safe.
Here are some ways to start a conversation about suicide:
I've been concerned about you lately.
I've noticed some changes in you and wonder how you're doing.
I wanted to check in with you because you haven't seemed yourself lately.
Here are some questions you can ask:
When did you start to feel like this?
Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
How can I best support you right now?
Have you thought about getting help?
Here is some encouragement you can give:
You are not alone in this. I'm here for you.
I know it's hard to believe right now, but the way you're feeling will change.
I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
Here are some things that won't help:
"Suicide is wrong"
"Suicide is selfish"
"You have so much to live for"
"You don't want to hurt your family"
Help the suicidal person to get professional help. Encourage the person to see a mental health professional, help to locate a treatment facility, or take them to a doctor's appointment.
Follow-up. Make sure they're attending treatment sessions and doctor's appointments. If medication has been prescribed, make sure they're taking it as directed.
Be proactive. Don't wait for them to call you- call them, text, drop by.
Encourage positive lifestyle changes: eating well, getting enough sleep, exercise.
Make a safety plan- work with them to come up with a series of steps to follow in the event of a suicidal crisis (what to do, who to call).
If you promise to be there, then be there. Even after the person starts to feel better, stay in touch. Ongoing support is important.
Dr. Jane Storrie, President-Elect, Ontario Psychological Association
Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych, Clinical Psychologist; Blogger, canadianveteransadvocacy.com/comingbackhome/
Michael L Blais CD
President - Founder Canadian Veterans Advocacy
6618 Harper Drive, Niagara Falls, Ontario
905-359-9247 /// hm 905-357-3306
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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.