CAF members deployed in Ukraine reflect on mental health

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Article / March 2, 2017

By: Joint Task Force – Ukraine (JTF-U) Public Affairs

Whether it is for combat, training, peace support, or disaster relief, life as a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) member on operations is a unique experience. However, it also comes with a host of stressors for both the deployed member and their family.

The men and women of Operation UNIFIER are nearing the end of their tour and will soon need to adapt to life back home.  To prepare them, two CAF Social Work Officers travelled to Ukraine in late February 2017 to meet with Joint Task Force – Ukraine (JTF-U) members.

Captains Samantha Thompson and Ashley Collette held  interactive sessions with small groups, as well as one-on-one meetings by request. By doing so, they  helped JTF-U members recognize the stressors they faced on deployment, as well as predict potential issues upon returning to Canada.

“Canadians rightfully expect the CAF to take care of the people who dedicate themselves

to a career in uniform, and that is a responsibility I take to heart,” said Lieutenant Colonel Wayne Niven, Commander of JTF-U. “Through these activities we are ensuring our soldiers have the tools to identify issues, and encouraging them to address potential problems early.”

The CAF Road to Mental Readiness program (R2MR) and mental health resources are available throughout the deployment cycle: during training before deployment, while on operations, and through reintegration and post deployment. The goal of R2MR is to improve short-term performance and long-term mental health outcomes.

“As an organization and as individual soldiers, we are very good at the preparation and training part, but we also make sure that we stay in good health after a deployment,” noted Captain Ashley Collette. “Similar to physical fitness, making the most of a break following a period of increased tempo is critical in order to recover and prepare to perform at a high level again.”

Task force members will go through a mandatory social worker screening within four to six months of their return to Canada. In addition, numerous resources are available to them at any time. These include the member’s Chain of Command, the Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program, and Mental Health and Psychosocial Programs at CAF medical clinics.

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