August 11, 2014 11:38 am

1 in 6 Canadian Forces members reports mental health or alcohol issues: StatsCan

TORONTO – One in six Canadian Armed Forces members have reported suffering symptoms associated with selected mental health or alcohol-related disorders, according to a Statistic Canada study published Monday.

About 6,700 full-time regular members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and 1,500 reservists were interviewed from April to August 2013 to collect information about the mental health status and need for mental health services within the Forces.

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The results of the 2013 Canadian Armed Forces Mental Health Survey found that one in six members reported experiencing symptoms associated with at least one of  the following mental or alcohol disorders in the previous 12 months:  major depressive episode, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, alcohol misuse, and alcohol dependence.

IN-DEPTH: Invisible Wounds – Crisis in the Military

The survey was developed by StatsCan in collaboration with the Department of National Defence (DND).

A look at the most common disorders

According to the CAF website, approximately 15 per cent of regular personnel access mental health services each year. CAF said that although efforts have been made to reduce the time its members wait before seeking care, it remains a problem in the CAF and in the general population.

Depression, or a major depressive episode, was the most common disorder, with eight per cent of full-time regular Forces members meeting the criteria in the 12 months prior to the survey. The disorder is identified “as a period of two weeks or more with persistent depressed mood or loss of interest in normal activities, as well as other symptoms including: decreased energy, changes in sleep and appetite, impaired concentration, feelings of hopelessness, or suicidal thoughts.”

Other results of the survey found:

  • 3 per cent of regular Forces members reported symptoms consistent with PTSD.
  • 7 per cent reported symptoms consistent with generalized anxiety disorder.
  • 4 per cent reported symptoms consistent with panic disorder.
  • 5 per cent admitted to alcohol misuse, while 2 per cent of CF members said they’re dependent on alcohol.

‘Need for mental health support’

In April, Global News spoke with five current and former members of the Canadian Forces, each with post-traumatic stress disorder. Read their stories.

READ MORE: Campaign urges soldiers to connect to fight mental illness stigma, suicide

Veteran advocates have previously spoken out about the urgent need for more mental health and transition support for members of the Canadian Armed Forces and a spate of suicides within the Forces the past year has prompted a lot of public attention on the care and services available to soldiers and their families.

The Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program has a confidential 24/7 toll-free telephone advisory and referral service for all military personnel and their families: 1-800-268-7708. If it is an emergency, call 911.

Earlier this year, more than 200 Canadian military personnel who have suffered a mental health issue and sought care have reportedly come forward to share their stories in a series of online videos for the DND.

 – with files from The Canadian Press

© Shaw Media, 2014

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