The majority of Canadian military personnel have been ordered to isolate at home because of COVID-19 to ensure they’re healthy for whenever the Forces are asked to assist with the pandemic or a natural disaster. Around 85 per cent are believed to be staying home. CP photo

Troops urged to seek help as use of mental-health services hits ‘all-time low’

It’s not clear why troops are no longer calling the military’s help lines

OTTAWA — Canada’s top military officer is urging his troops to reach out for help if it’s required, as the use of mental-health services for military personnel has reached an all-time low.

In an open letter to all Canadian Armed Forces members, chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance said there may be legitimate reasons fewer of service members are calling military helplines or accessing mental-health professionals.

“Use of help lines and access to mental-health professionals is at an all-time low,” Vance wrote.

“There may be some valid reasons for this, but I would like to encourage anyone who needs to reach out or access mental-health therapy to do so.”

The decline in use of mental-health services by military personnel contrasts with reports of a surge in demand at civilian crisis centres and other mental-health organizations, with some reporting up to 50 per cent more calls from Canadians in distress.

The Canadian Mental Health Association reported this month that one of its branches in Nova Scotia, which usually fields 25 daily calls for mental-health support, was now getting more than 700 calls per day as people struggle during the pandemic.

It wasn’t immediately clear why troops are no longer calling the military’s help lines or seeking support.

The Canadian Press reported this month that 20 members of the Armed Forces took their own lives last year, the largest number of military suicides since 2014. Studies have shown that certain military members and veterans are more at risk of suicide than the general population.

Improving the mental health of service members has been a major focus for the Forces since the end of the war in Afghanistan and a rash of military suicides starting in the years that followed.

It has rolled out a suicide-prevention strategy and established helplines for service members and their families. Vance also noted in his letter that chaplains and doctors are available on military bases across the country.

“While I appreciate the stoic nature of our members, we need them to remember that they can also reach out if they need support of any kind,” Vance said in a statement to The Canadian Press on Sunday.

“These are challenging times for all Canadians and something that we are very much aware of. I’ve asked the team to follow this aspect of care closely going forward to make sure our folks know that we’re there for them through these unprecedented times.”

The majority of Canadian military personnel have been ordered to isolate at home because of COVID-19 to ensure they’re healthy for whenever the Forces are asked to assist with the pandemic or a natural disaster. Around 85 per cent are believed to be staying home.

Vance indicated in his letter that the military is looking at resuming some training that has been suspended due to COVID-19, but suggested the return to normalcy “will be a long and deliberate operation and will be different across the country as the conditions vary region to region.”

Coronavirusmental health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Artist Nathan Scott’s The Face-off is one of Red Deer’s most recent public artworks. It was installed at Servus Arena. (Advocate file photo.)
Red Deer city council opts to leave public art selection to a commission

Only projects costing at least $1 million will now trigger art component

Red Deer City Coun. Michael Dawe spoke up about an attempted break-in at his home during a city council meeting that discussed policing priorities. (Advocate file photo).
All crimes should be reported, says Red Deer’s RCMP superintendent

Policing priorities are cracking down on property and drug crimes

The number of active cases of COVID-19 in the province sat at 4,477 Monday afternoon, up 826 from Friday’s 3,651, said Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

Alberta reported 1,440 new COVID-19 cases on Monday from over the weekend,… Continue reading

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Three Red Deer based dealerships have donated $10,000 to various local organizations including the food bank. (File Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Three Red Deer car dealerships help organizations in need

Three Red Deer automobile dealerships have come together to donate $10,000 to… Continue reading

“Our members have decided they just can’t do this anymore. We’ve protected this province and you’ve treated us like dirt, so enough is enough,” says AUPE vice-president Bonnie Gostola, whose members protested outside the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre on Momday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Updated: Hospital workers strike in Red Deer

Some surgeries and ambulatory care clinics postponed around the province

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre could be affected by cuts to Alberta Health Services announced by the government Tuesday. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
David Marsden: Yes, we know how to do laundry

Union leaders would have us believe there’s something special about their members:… Continue reading

Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe speaks during a press conference in south Regina on Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. Moe will appear at a car rally with supporters this afternoon outside of Regina.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell
Four Moe Years: Scott Moe and Saskatchewan Party defeat NDP for 4th straight majority

Four Moe Years: Scott Moe and Saskatchewan Party defeat NDP for 4th straight majority

Bayern's Alphonso Davies controls the ball during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany on February 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matthias Schrader
Canadian star Alphonso Davies could be out for two months after injuring ankle

Canadian star Alphonso Davies could be out for two months after injuring ankle

B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
David Braley, owner of three Canadian Football League franchises, dead at 79

David Braley, owner of three Canadian Football League franchises, dead at 79

Alberta alternate Heather Nedohin skips against Saskatchewan during the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in St. Catharines, Ont., on February 21, 2017. Big-game skipping experience. Two national women's curling titles. Two world bronze medals. There's plenty to like about Heather Nedohin's resume. In bringing her on board as coach, Team Kerri Einarson is hoping her knowledge, drive and spirit will help them stay at the top. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Two-time Scotties champ Heather Nedohin to coach Team Kerri Einarson this season

Two-time Scotties champ Heather Nedohin to coach Team Kerri Einarson this season

Wayne Gretzky, left, holds up a banner bearing his number during a jersey retirement ceremony with Joey Mos in Edmonton on Firday, October 1, 1999. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Legendary Edmonton locker-room attendant Joey Moss dies at 57

Legendary Edmonton locker-room attendant Joey Moss dies at 57

Wild caribou roam the tundra in Nunavut on March 25, 2009. Canada and Alberta have signed a deal on caribou protection that gives them years to take action but could allow energy drilling to resume right away on some ranges. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada, Alberta agree on caribou protection deal that gives them years to take action

Canada, Alberta agree on caribou protection deal that gives them years to take action

Most Read