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November 11 is Remembrance Day, a time for reflection and to pay tribute to those who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces. There are currently 600,000 veterans in Canada, but did you know that around one fifth of Canadian veterans will be diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their lives? The most common conditions are anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Continue reading for more information and to find out where you or a loved one can get help.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD develops after a person has experienced or witnessed a shocking, frightening, or traumatic event. Symptoms can begin surfacing as early as one month or even years after the traumatic event and include intrusive memories and nightmares, insomnia, avoiding thinking or talking about the event, negative thoughts about yourself or other people, and changes in your physical and emotional reactions such as being easily startled.
It's estimated up to 10% of war zone veterans may experience PTSD. If you think this is you, it’s important to seek help from your healthcare provider. Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants or psychological therapy, such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
According to Statistics Canada, 48% of female veterans and 38% of male veterans reported symptoms consistent with at least one anxiety disorder between 2002 and 2018. Symptoms of anxiety include:
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
- Feeling weak or tired
- Trouble concentrating on anything other than the present worry
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal problems
- Having difficulty controlling worry
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
As many as 45% of female veterans have experienced symptoms of depression and 33% of male veterans. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it may be time to seek help.
- Sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
- Anger, irritability, or frustration
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Sleep disturbances – including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Lack of energy
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Suicidal thoughts
If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, know that you’re not alone and there’s a lot of support available to you. A great place to start is the Government of Canada veterans website. You’ll find a phone number where veterans, former RCMP members, and their family members can get professional help. You can also find a wealth of information on understanding mental health, assessment and treatment, compensation, and more.
The information presented in this blog post is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information in this post as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for professional counseling care. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.