Author Topic: CVA Mental Health Alert - Suicide prevention - Buddy System Christmas 2013  (Read 3995 times)

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Mike Blais

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CVA Mental Health Alert - Suicide prevention - Buddy System

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 blessed 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 or 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 by those who have been attracted to the Canadian 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 mind and need our help if they are to heal, to enjoy the quality of life that many 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 YOU 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 special, 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,

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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Re: CVA Mental Health Alert - Suicide prevention - Buddy System Christmas 2013
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2013, 11:37:23 PM »
General Walt launched the mental health campaign "Be The Difference" back in 2009 and got an award of excellence for this. Unfortunately, this seems to have gone to the far side, but it's not the first initiative for mental health from inside the front line. There are ample organizations in the civilian side who promote mental health awareness, and suicide prevention training and skills enhancement. The Canadian Mental Health Association, as one example, offers many courses for free. As a board member of the Schizophrenia Society of New Brunswick, I have helped facilitate the program "Strengthening Families Together". This is a gentle and assertive reminder that there are services out there.

When I see articles in the news on how the top mental health professionals in the military conduct services versus the situation with the gentleman in Moncton and his service dog, it brings me back to my agency I work for (or any work place for that matter typically). With over 60 branch offices in Canada (my place of employment), despite however many years experience one might have or however many training sessions one has for a resume, not every boss is going to be the same; every person is different for that matter. Just like how the veterans were treated in Ontario at a Remembrance Day Ceremony, you would never see that here where I am. Some people take their jobs too far, and some don't take them far enough. People fear of losing their jobs is they aren't "tight enough"; others get by because they've been allowed to.

The instances we are seeing on the news is not a novelty in the workplace when it comes to some in charge doing one thing, and then someone else doing something else. Is this right? No, it's just how things are as being human and being modeled to do a job. As an employment counselor re-integrating those with a criminal conviction back into society, we work with those suffering from mental illness, addictions, traumas, homelessness, and at times they are a "revolving door" client. We deal with suicides; we deal with police, threats and some upsetting situations. What I caution is that some suicides could appear completely out of no-where; we see this a lot as well.

The key is to not blame yourself for not seeing any signs or "signs". Suicide is not usually an act of impulse; the act is typically something that the individual had been thinking about for a period of time. I very much encourage those to check up on each other - it is what we would do as front line staff in group homes. It's our job to do these things, and they are effective when done the right way. The cases of Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons sent sky rockets in the news over two young girls taking their lives, and the situation of Ms. Parsons caused for an overhaul in Ottawa for bullying laws to be revamped.

By message is an encouraging one that we are all part of the same culture - we are human. We have emotions, we have behaviors. We can act professional and we can act silly. I'm offering a warm fact that the key to alleviating stigma is to have a positive attitude to never stop learning. I was not able to join the forces because of my medical (I have a neurological disorder where my whole body can shake if under adrenaline, I drop things very easily, my voice can shake and sometimes I have trouble speaking and remembering what I was going to say; I also have had a history of mood disorders ranging from depression which changed to Bipolar Affective Disorder when I was 19. I've also endured four hospitalizations.

Unfortunately again, as a civilian I have received stigma because I studied psychology for five years. I have mentioned this to some veterans and I was instantly thrown into a psychologist category and was almost scowled at. Folks, to practice in New Brunswick now, the standard one must have is their full PhD. My undergraduate degree (that stretched out to five years because of a hospitalization and relapse) gets most people call center jobs unless you land lots of experience, or other training, or you know someone, etc. Something I need to encourage is that if the help is wanted, we as civilians need the reciprocal relationship building with the veterans. This can happen, and it does, but for things to work both sides need to be willing to cooperate.

There is a certain tactic to relieve stigma, an a key component is reading and educating - get informed. I have met soldiers who want to be social workers but had no interest in looking at the books I was giving them. They have no clue how much reading and writing goes into just a bachelor of arts degree, let alone the science and engineer students who have labs on top of those courses and have an extensive number of reading and studying to do on top of that.

My job as an employment counselor for those affected with mental illness is to look at options for people. We look at their strengths and we go from there. Some of our folks were attending university and then dropped out because they had a episode and were struck with Schizophrenia. Genetic vulnerability is some times the cause for later instances. What I have to offer this holiday season is to keep looking for information. Visit my website and just see what I am working on. I hope that this gives those feeling like they have struck a wall a bit of hope and to maybe make some new year resolutions.

There are times that we sometimes have to change our dreams because we get sick, living situations change or we just change our minds naturally as we get older. Our interests can change and develop and what once caught our attention no longer is attainable. The whole point in being a soldier and the training you folks do is to be able to adapt to the situation presented to you. I have confidence that if you take this transferable skill you can apply those marvelous talents to new situations and exploration devices to life a long and prosperous life doing other things.

Despite the way society can be now, many children need foster families and those with disabilities adore veterans. I'm encouraging the option (as not everyone is aware of, and some may have only forgotten about) the involvement to work with those who might be less fortunate.  Be a role model for someone, and give back to your society of Canada in a new way. Let's work on the "Boy Scout" image we used to have and start really taking care of each other in another way. If you are looking for a jump start to your new year please look at my intercontinental project I have been designing over the last six months from nine years of volunteer work:

There are things going on that haven't reached the news yet, so I hope that this gives people a little bit more this holiday season.


Sylvain Chartrand CD

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CBC Radio, CVA Suicide Prevention
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2013, 10:19:53 PM »


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Re: CVA Mental Health Alert - Suicide prevention - Buddy System Christmas 2013
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2013, 01:21:18 AM »
Right on Mike,

Truth be it, being a Vet myself, it makes me sad and upset when one of us takes his or her own life. My gosh.  We are a big Family and we are all here to help each other, even if it's just to lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on. Please, please ask for help.  It's not the end of the world when you leave the forces, there is still plenty to do in life.  I volunteer for the Variety Club once a year at the Show of Hearts and what motivates me is seeing all of those children who can't walk and some have no limbs but they keep on going and they flourish.  So please, I beg you guys, ask for help.


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Re: CVA Mental Health Alert - Suicide prevention - Buddy System Christmas 2013
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2013, 01:03:37 PM »
Good job Mike. There's really no need for anyone to feel like there is nothing out there for them after the military. Lots of people go through life illnesses and have to change who they are or their paths in life. I don't need to be in the military to say that.

Mike Blais

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Re: CVA Mental Health Alert - Suicide prevention - Buddy System Christmas 2013
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2013, 02:42:48 PM »
Thanks. It is so important that we unite on all levels to ensure the System, whether it be DND or VAC, has the wherewithal to affect the changes required to ensure their is a level of trust, compassion and understanding when they step forward. That is wherein our duty, as patritic Canadians, are