OTTAWA, ONTARIO -- 06/25/09 -- General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff, launched today the Canadian Forces (CF) Mental Health Awareness Campaign, which has the dual aim of educating CF personnel on mental health issues, and building a culture of understanding. The campaign's theme of "Be the Difference" communicates the idea that all personnel can make a difference to those affected by mental health issues.
"Not all injuries are visible and we have to be very open about that, to come out of the shadows to embrace the treatment of these very real injuries," said Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway. "I'm very proud that the Canadian Forces are launching this program to do more, and we will continue to do more."
The campaign is one result of the CF's long-term commitment to improving oversight and engagement regarding mental health issues.
"Operational stress injuries and mental health issues affect our personnel, their units, operational effectiveness, family and friends," said General Natynczyk. "All of us in the CF, regardless of rank, have a responsibility to take care of one another and to help those in need."
The launch ceremony brought together CF leadership, military personnel with experience in mental health issues, and representatives from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC).
"We are pleased to be able to help bring home the message that mental health is just as important as physical health in the CF," said Dr. Taylor Alexander, CEO, CMHA, National Office. "And we are honoured to be members, with the CF and Veterans Affairs Canada, of the Mental Health Services Advisory Committee, developing mental health programs for the military community."
"We commend the CF for taking this important leadership role and for supporting the well-being of men and women in uniform," said Michael Howlett, MHCC President and CEO. "We look forward to advancing our productive partnership with Canada's military."
The campaign builds on the success of two CF non-clinical programs: the Mental Health and Operational Stress Injury Joint Speakers Bureau, established in 2007 to educate the military community on mental health issues; and the Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) network, an innovative peer-based intervention program established in 2001.