Public Values

Suicide prevention for soldiers suffers budget cut

Minister walks away from responsibilities — union.

Corbett: The government s decision to withdraw from this area of work is quite simply irresponsible.OTTAWA, ON, May 3, 2012: Despite widespread concerns with the incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suicide rates for members of the Canadian Forces (CF), notifications received by unions representing Department of National Defence (DND) health professionals indicate that federal budget cuts will shut down a key unit in the department that monitors mental health and contributes to suicide prevention.

"At a time when there is increasing awareness of mental health problems among our veterans returning from conflict and concerns that PTSD, depression and suicide are serious issues for the Canadian Forces, the government's decision to withdraw from this area of work is quite simply irresponsible," says Gary Corbett, President of the Professional Institute of the Public Service (PIPSC). "On behalf of all Canadians, we are calling on Minister MacKay to reverse this decision."

  "Given his own stark assessment of the state of mental health in the Canadian Forces, how can Minister MacKay defend the decision to eliminate important resources in this area?"

"Minister MacKay said this week that deployments of troops to Afghanistan 'have had a debilitating effect' on mental health. Given his own stark assessment of the state of mental health in the Canadian Forces, how can Minister MacKay defend this decision to eliminate important resources in this area?" asks Corbett.

The main focus of the Deployment Health Section of Canadian Forces Health Services Group is mental health surveillance. The positions which have been declared expendable include the department's most knowledgeable experts on monitoring of PTSD disorder rates and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (concussion). Mental health problems have been identified as an area of concern in the military since the Health and Lifestyle Information Survey in 2000 and the CF Supplement to the Canadian Mental Health Survey in 2002.

In addition to closing down the four-person Deployment Health Section, DND's capability to monitor the health of Canadian Forces members will be crippled by the loss of another 8 of 18 positions including epidemiologists and researchers who analyzed mental health outcomes such as depression, PTSD, mental health services and suicide.

"Monitoring the health of Canadian Forces members is not merely optional for DND," says Claude Poirier, President of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE). "Because Canadian Forces members are generally excluded from health surveys conducted by Statistics Canada, DND studies are essential to identify health issues affecting military personnel and to target areas for intervention."

Budget cuts will also close down a successful injury surveillance and prevention trial at CFB Valcartier. The injury rate among CF members is twice that of the general Canadian population. Injuries are the main cause for Canadian Forces personnel being unable to deploy and are the main cause for pension payouts for younger veterans by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada and the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE) represent more than 70,000 scientists and other professionals in the federal public service including medical doctors and epidemiologists working at the Department for National Defence. PIPSC and CAPE are founding members of Professionals Serving Canadians (PSC), a coalition of public service unions concerned about the impact of cuts to government programs and services on the well-being of Canadians, their families and their communities.

Links and sources
  Cuts shut down mental health monitoring and key resource for suicide prevention for Canadian Forces: Unions call on minister MacKay to reverse decision.

Posted: May 09, 2012

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