Finding mental health staff for remote military posts a problem

National Defence’s pool of candidates for vacant mental health positions dried up quickly last spring when civilian recrui

OTTAWA – National Defence’s pool of candidates for vacant mental health positions dried up quickly last spring when civilian recruits were told they would have to relocate to far-flung military outposts.

Critics say that underlines the need to recruit uniformed psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors.

A series of briefings and documents, obtained by the federal Liberals under access to information, show how officials scrambled to fill 54 vacant staff jobs amid a high-profile crisis where as many as 10 soldiers and veterans took their own lives within a three month period.

A briefing to Defence Minister Rob Nicholson shows that within weeks of being ordered to clear bureaucratic roadblocks, the department had extended job offers to 40 mental health workers.

Of those offers, 22 were accepted on the spot, nine were held up because of conditions such as security clearance and another nine were refused.

Officials noted in the March 20 briefing that the department had exhausted its potential supply of recruits and those who might be interested were not willing to move to remote parts of the country where the need is sometimes the greatest.

Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray says the problem is the department is putting its emphasis on hiring civilians, rather than recruiting uniformed mental health workers whose job would be to serve is outlying areas.

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