Spencer van Vloten: As we remember our war heroes, let’s not forget that our veterans continue to fight at home.

Opinion: Thousands of Canadian veterans lack adequate mental health treatment or material support, and do not have an understanding shoulder to lean on when they are at their most vulnerable.

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Almost two million Canadians went to war.


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In World War I, they suffered constant bombardment in flooded trenches, watching friends who had barely emerged from childhood die on the battlefields of Western Europe, but who kept on advancing to victory.

They then rose to the occasion in WWII, fighting the strong winds off the coast of Sicily, fighting under the scorching Tunisian heat, and marching through the occupied Netherlands, freeing the Dutch population, including my family. , of the Nazi rule.

Lives were lost, families were shattered, and the world was transformed.

Remembrance Day is a much-needed occasion to honor all Canadians who made these sacrifices so that future generations will not have to do the same.

But as we honor our veterans of the world war, we cannot forget the men and women who have returned to Canada from other conflicts over the past decades. For them, the fight continues at home.


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The mental and physical health of veterans of the recent era is far worse than that of the general Canadian population and veterans of the world wars and the Korean War.

Veterans of the recent era are more likely to report low feelings of community belonging and life satisfaction, and to experience depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

They have greater health problems, with higher blood pressure and high rates of chronic pain and disability.

When they return to Canada, they struggle to find employment and become homeless at much higher rates than non-veterans.

All of these challenges tragically push many beyond their breaking point: For our male veterans, the suicide rate is roughly 50% higher than that of the general population, and for female veterans, it is twice as high.


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But why does this happen, especially when our veterans of the world war did not experience such negative results?

Being in a war zone is an incredibly exhausting experience that can leave permanent psychological scars if not addressed properly. Timely and accessible treatment, tailored to the trauma of war, is an essential part of an effective system to support our veterans.

However, reports show that Canadian veterans face increasingly long waits for mental health services, with some forced to wait up to seven months after first applying. These delays allow psychological problems to intensify and harden, making any final treatment less likely to be successful.

The administration of veterans benefits, which occurs through the federal government, is also concerning. The past few years have seen a staggering backlog of tens of thousands of disability claims for veterans as the financial, housing and medical support that would help provide stability has been frozen in administrative limbo due to various systemic imperfections.


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And perhaps the biggest problem that lays the groundwork for everyone else is that Canadians just don’t care much about today’s veterans.

Rather than coming home to recognition and respect, the veterans of the recent era are greeted largely with indifference and sometimes contempt.

Major wars are covered in virtually all of our schools, but Canada’s familiarity with our contemporary armed forces has been diminishing and is now virtually non-existent, and conflicts in Bosnia, Haiti, Namibia, Cyprus, and Rwanda are unrecorded with the majority of Canadians.

The criticism that should be leveled at legislators for decisions related to these conflicts is also too often dumped on veterans who were simply doing their job.


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The upshot of all of the above is that thousands of Canadian veterans lack adequate mental health treatment or material support, and do not have an understanding shoulder to lean on when they are at their most vulnerable.

Instead, they have become the forgotten ones, left alone to suffer in silence.

But it does not have to be this way.

For starters, our government can invest more in occupational stress injury clinics, of which there are only nine nationwide for a population of more than 600,000 veterans, so that more veterans can receive prompt treatment for service-connected psychological injuries. .

The disability benefits process for veterans can also become faster and more accessible by simplifying and having more support available for veterans who need help completing an application. As part of this, Veterans Affairs must work more closely with medical clinics and the military to obtain the necessary documentation in a timely manner.


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And we can all take greater steps to recognize veterans in our communities through local events, education, and by acknowledging their service and the challenges it can bring.

This country can do better for our veterans, our fellow Canadians, and now is the best time to start.

Spencer van Vloten is the editor of BCDisability.com.

Letters to the editor should be sent to [email protected]. The editor of the editorial pages is Hardip Johal, who can be contacted at [email protected].

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