- Feb 8, 2007
- Land of Swine and Maple Syrup
The results of this study does not surprise me at all. I just hope this helps educate the general population and members of the CF there is nothing wrong with seeking assistance for these injuries.
Canadian soldiers hesitate on help for mental health: study
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2008 | 6:45 PM ET
The Canadian Press
Even before Canadian troops faced the day-to-day stress of combat in Afghanistan, soldiers were reluctant to seek help for mental problems, a newly-released study says.
The survey of 1,220 soldiers with mental disorders and problems like alcoholism indicated that four out of six did not seek treatment, citing a variety of reasons.
Some believed the condition was temporary while others said they distrusted military management or the military health service.
It was not clear if soldiers didn't trust the quality of care or feared the impact that treatment for a mental disorder would have on their career, said Deniz Fikretoglu, the study's lead author and an expert in post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I think the main interest in a study like this right now is, 'Does this apply to the people coming back from Afghanistan?"' she said, acknowledging the results have an unknown application to Afghanistan veterans.
Fikretoglu said that since the survey was completed in 2002, the military has ramped up post-deployment screening programs and encouraged soldiers to get help.
"Would that have an impact?" Fikretoglu said. "Would we see more people seeking help? We are not sure."
A spokesman for the Canadian Forces was not available Wednesday to respond to the study.
The study was completed by researchers from the Douglas Mental Health University Institute affiliated with McGill University. The University of Montreal, Dalhousie University in Halifax and the University of Prince Edward Island were also involved.
"It was one of the first studies to look at mental health service use in the Canadian Forces so it's quite unique in that way," said Fikretoglu, who now works for the Veterans Affairs Department.
The examination of the use of military mental health services was based on data compiled by Statistics Canada from a questionnaire compiled by the federal Defence Department.
Other countries face same issue
While the Canadian Forces was the Petri dish for this particular research, Fikretoglu said the findings are likely applicable to other military forces in the world.
"We did look at whether or not our results were similar to what had been reported in other countries such as the U.S. and we find that our findings are very, very similar," she said.
About 8,000 of the 57,000 full-time and 24,000 reserve members of the military at the time were initially surveyed. Of those, 1,220 met the criteria for having at least one mental disorder in the previous year.
Fikretoglu acknowledged the original questions for the survey did not address how much the respondent adhered to the stiff-upper-lip military culture which puts an emphasis on fitness for duty.
"We need to take a closer look at why people are not seeking services and what role military cultural values may play," she said.
The data was recorded in 2002, the same year of Canada's first foray into Afghanistan on a six-month mission but before the start of its current deadly commitment in the strife-torn country.
While the survey explored stress caused by overseas deployment, the data did not specify whether the respondents had served in places such as Bosnia or Somalia.
But the survey, which is published in the February issue of the research journal "Medical Care," underlines the need for the military to work to remove the stigma associated with mental health problems.
Alain Brunet, another author of the study and a researcher at the Douglas Institute, said military personnel must continue to be encouraged to seek the help they need, especially after serving in places like Afghanistan.
The military needs to destigmatize mental health issues and change "health delivery systems to gain the trust of military members," Brunet said.