September 16, 2014 3:32 pm
Updated: September 16, 2014 7:22 pm

DND struggles to fill mental health jobs

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WATCH: The number of Canadian soldiers who took their own lives during and after the mission in Afghanistan has now surpassed the number who died during active combat in the war. As Jacques Bourbeau reports, it’s another indication our soldiers aren’t getting the help they need.

OTTAWA – Almost nine months after promising to make the hiring of mental health staff a priority for the Canadian Forces, 40 positions — nearly 10 per cent of the military’s mental health workforce — remain vacant across the country.

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The latest figures come as a series of newly disclosed emails show the military was scrambling prior to the last federal budget to avoid further cuts to its medical branch, at a time when several soldiers took their own lives and some 35 others tried to do the same.

INVISIBLE WOUNDS: Crisis in the military

The pledge to meet a long-established benchmark of 454 psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and addiction counsellors — both civilian and military — was made last winter in the midst of the military’s mental-health crisis.

Most of the vacant positions — 32 of them — are civil service jobs, which have proven the toughest to fill.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson told the Commons today that progress has been made and that dealing with mental health issues is a “top priority” for the government.

A budgetary and bureaucratic turf war brought on by the Harper government’s hiring freeze prevented the Canadian Forces Health Services from filling jobs, even though $11.4 million was injected into the system in 2012 to make it happen.

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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