The mental health monthly blog was developed with the intent to share information regarding mental health topics that are not typically discussed. We hope to inspire personal reflection, increase knowledge of different topics, and increase awareness of support and services available. If anything in the blog sparks your interest or you would like more information, please contact the GMFRC social workers.
This months article:
July: Veteran Families!
This month is another edition of a guest writer on the blog! I have invited my colleague, Cali Keating, the Coordinator of the Veteran Family Program to share tips, tricks, and insights into the life of the veteran community. As mental health is not a one stop shop, I felt it is important to include some of the other services at the GMFRC that contribute to overall mental wellness.
The Veteran Family Program was created to provide additional support and resources to military families as they go through the medical release process and transition into civilian life. This program is important because the release process affects the whole family, and many are unsure of the resources that are available to them.
Releasing from the military is a big change. Going from a Canadian Armed Forces member to civilian life is a significant transition. Not only are there changes in employment status, but there are also changes in financial stability, where you live, your sense of identity, and who you go to for medical and mental health needs. These changes can trickle across the family tree. Spouses and family members often feel a change in the sense of identity, feel the impact of financial stability, and may end up also experiencing changes in employment. This can be challenging for everyone. Mental health for the veterans and their families is going to take a hit.
It’s important to note that even if you’re a seasoned veteran family there can be triggers to your own mental health. For example, a military highlight in the media, or experiencing more periods of intense change and uncertainty. The following tips are not only important for releasing families but also for those who have transitioned to veteran family life.
- Find ways to gain a sense of identity within yourself. For example, are you a runner? A painter? Caregiver? Reflecting on your values in life and what drew you into the military, or what values you held onto as a military family member, can help in developing a sense of identity outside of the military community.
- Connect with others. There are local groups that foster a sense of community. Heroes Mending on the Fly Canada can introduce you to peers while teaching you how to make fly fishing lures. The Veteran Farm Project has created a farming community for military and veteran families. Local Legions offer a variety of social activities to help you meet new people and stay in touch. OSISS (Operational Stress Injury Social Support) offers peer support for the members/veterans and their families. These are only a few examples. Reach out to us for more resources!
- Ask for help. If you are in the release process, members can contact Wing Mental Health, their Nurse Case Manager, the Padres, or reach out to their Chain of Command. Families can reach out to the GMFRC, the Padres, OSISS, or their health care providers. Veteran members and their families can also reach out to the GMFRC, OSISS, or their health care providers. The Family Information Line (1-800-866-4546) and Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program (CFMAP)/Veteran Affairs Canada Assistance Services (1-800-268-7708) phone lines are available to all members of the military and veteran community.
The mental health of everyone involved in the military community is of the utmost importance. In order to be operationally fit, or ready to support our family, we need to be mentally fit. And, that does not stop when a family leaves the CAF. Keep up with the ways you maintained your mental health before you transitioned to civilian life and encourage everyone in your family to stay connected with who they can. Mental health is a part of all of us.
If you would like to find out more about the resources described above or to continue the conversation, reach out to us at the GMFRC!
June: Responding to change using the FACE method
April: Compassion Fatigue
March: Gut Health and Mental Health
February: Effective communication strategies
January: Mens Mental Health
December: Taking care of yourself during the holidays
November 2019: Grief and Remembrance
October 2019: World Mental Health Day
September 2019: Children’s Mental Health
August 2019: Reality of Self-Care
July 2019: Mental Health Stigma: Summertime Edition