Depression, this evil that gnaws the armed forces

roger-fait-longue-carriere-militaireThe first time Roger has tried to end his life, he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. “When leaving Kandahar in the flight back home, I told myself that my nightmare ended finally. “Roger was wrong. His problems were just beginning.

Since returning home, the former military has suffered from depression and operational stress disorder. And he made two other suicide attempts.

Roger, who preferred to hide his surname, decided to talk about his experiences in the hope of helping other soldiers who suffer from depression. “We are not talking between military. We are ashamed to be sick, he said. And those who are not receiving promotion. ”

Since 2012, some 11 300 members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) reported suffering from depression, according to documents obtained by the Act on access to information. But the number could be much higher since, as Roger points out, the military rarely talk about their condition.

When a soldier has to consult for mental problems he sees professionals whose offices are generally “second floor”. “And the stairs to get there, what are the stairs of shame,” says Roger.

48.4% of the Regular Force

According to a Statistics Canada survey on mental illness in the CAF in November 2014, approximately 15.7% of Regular Force members reported having experienced depression in their lifetime. If we include generalized anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, panic disorder or alcohol abuse, this proportion rises to 48.4%.

Roger has had a long military career 40 years as a cook in the CAF. At 53, he was deployed to Afghanistan on Forward Operating Base Zangabad, nicknamed Zangaboom because it was located near areas of combat and bombing. Quickly, his condition deteriorated, he could not sleep and did not get along with his supervisor. “I wanted to die. When there was shelling, I was not going even hide in the bunker. ”

In tears, weapon in hand

One evening, another senior found him down the stairs, he was in tears and had his service weapon in his hands. “I was broken,” he said. Roger was then transferred to another base, but had to stay in Afghanistan. “They gave me trouble because I did not have my headphones, but they let me walk with a weapon and ammunition!”

Upon his return, after six months, he shut himself up long days in his basement, in the dark. “I wanted to see no one. I dreamed that night left me in Afghanistan. “In 2012 and in 2013, he locked himself in his car in the garage and swallowed all his drugs. “Every time I woke up in the hospital, I was frustrated to have failed,” he said, sighing. Roger had to insist several times and wait a few months to be admitted to the clinic Sainte-Anne, specialized operational stress.

The Statistics Canada survey recognizes that military deployed in Afghanistan are also more likely to suffer from mental disorders.

Since 2005, the annual costs in internal and external psychiatric resources at the Armed Forces have doubled from $ 465,516 to $ 1,069,405, according to documents obtained by La Presse. However, the ombudsman of National Defence has previously reported, in 2012, a chronic shortage of mental health staff.

Recruitment: a “challenge”

In 2002, the Forces had set a goal to hire 454 employees to handle these problems. Currently, there are 420 mental health professionals, says the spokesman of the Forces, Jennifer Eckersley, recognizes that recruitment remains a “challenge” because of the high demand. She stresses, however, that the military has access to a network of more than 2,300 psychologists and psychiatrists in 1040.

Roger, who began to get better in contact with its Cybelle bitch, has offered to talk about depression Forces soldiers to inform them of what they can live, for the help they have to fetch, the shame, etc. “But no one called me back,” he said with a sigh.

– In collaboration with William Leclerc

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