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View Gary Schellenberger Profile
CPC (ON)
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the 41st meeting of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs and, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), a study of combat stress and its consequences on the mental health of veterans and their families.
Our witness today, from 3:30 to 4:30 via video conference from Vancouver, British Columbia, as an individual, is Marvin J. Westwood, founder of the Veterans Transition Program.
Welcome, Mr. Westwood.
I am Gary Schellenberger, the chair of the standing committee.
If you would like to, please make your address, and then hopefully we can keep our questions short and to the point. We look forward to a very informative hour, sir.
View Gary Schellenberger Profile
CPC (ON)
We are doing a study on suicide and mental problems within the military, particularly in our military veterans; a lot of it is that our veterans are coming back from Afghanistan and various other deployments with PTSD. So this, we feel...again, in the transition from the forces to veterans, is there a gap there? How can we handle that? Can we affect the mental condition of our veterans better by a better transition from the military life, which they're probably used to, to civilian life?
View Colin Mayes Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Dr. Westwood, for being with us today.
I do have a question, but first I'll give you a little background. I was with Veterans Affairs here five years ago when I was first elected and, of course, the plan was to move Veterans Affairs away from being just a benefit plan to a life support plan or a caring plan where we were following the veteran and making sure that all their needs during their full life after service were cared for. That is why there was the inception of the Veterans Charter and then the further review that we've been doing to carry that out and to improve that system. This study is just a furtherance of that.
One of the things we've heard in previous testimony was about the importance of family--and you've mentioned colleagues--as far as helping those veterans who are suffering from PTSD and those who might be suicidal is concerned. What about...? You've stressed colleagues. Previously there were a lot of witnesses who said that it's important for family to be involved in that support, and I would even suggest the community, whether it be the local Legion or even church groups or organizations that are there to support those veterans. I was wondering if you have any of that as far as your transition program goes in looking for support for those veterans you're dealing with.
View Colin Mayes Profile
CPC (BC)
We've been dealing with the transition from active duty with the Canadian Forces to Veterans Affairs in regard to how they fit into the department and all the different programs they have to support the veterans. Would you say you're focusing more on that transition from active duty to civilian life and how they fit into society?
View Colin Mayes Profile
CPC (BC)
There was one comment we had from our witness from the forces in Australia who deals with PTSD, and especially suicide amongst veterans. The statement was made that a lot of the stress...or that of those who committed suicide, only one-third of them actually saw active combat duty, and that a lot of the issues around suicidal tendencies were more about things like marriage breakdown, financial issues, and tragedies in their lives that sort of manifested themselves in their lives. They weren't necessarily connected to their combat duties.
Dr. Marvin Westwood: No.
Mr. Colin Mayes: Do you find that at all?
View Brian Storseth Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Westwood, for your presentation, and thank you for the dedication you have to our men and women in the Canadian Forces, our veterans, and our police officers that you help out.
You hit a whole bunch of things that I think were very good. One thing I would like to follow up on is the culture our military has. Have you noticed a change? Obviously, Veterans Affairs and DND have tried to change to address this culture a little and make mental health awareness something that's more top of mind and more accessible. Have you noticed a change in the culture?
View Brian Storseth Profile
CPC (AB)
I represent a rural riding with a couple of military bases in it. One of the concerns in my area is access to treatment. Sometimes your treatment meetings can be 15 to 20 minutes long, but it's a three-hour drive to a place to access them. Is this a concern you share as well?
View Brian Storseth Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
I have just one more quick question for you. There has been a tremendous number of changes to programs. The government is trying to address some of the issues we've been talking about. In your mind, how knowledgeable are the soldiers you're talking to about the changes that have been made to programs or about additional programs that are available?
View Ben Lobb Profile
CPC (ON)
View Ben Lobb Profile
2011-03-02 17:04
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My first question is around any research that you've done on what actually triggers the PTSD. We had General Dallaire testify before the committee in the fall. He talked about a trigger that he encountered after he had done his service. If he was at a market, the aroma of fresh fruit or vegetables brought him back to a time when he was in Africa. I'm just wondering what the research is on triggers or predicting triggers or trying to identify this.
View Ben Lobb Profile
CPC (ON)
View Ben Lobb Profile
2011-03-02 17:07
Another question I have has to do with some of the research you're doing on MRIs and the cutaneous tissue and all these things you're doing post-service for our servicemen. Do those studies look at what the brain looks like before and after? Are you doing a lot of the “after” now? If you are, what are you seeing?
View Ben Lobb Profile
CPC (ON)
View Ben Lobb Profile
2011-03-02 17:09
Is the research...? Obviously PTSD can be many different things to different people, with the triggers and all of that, but--
View Ben Lobb Profile
CPC (ON)
View Ben Lobb Profile
2011-03-02 17:09
That's fair enough.
The question I want to get to now is whether you, through your research, are able to narrow it down to say that there are actually different types of PTSD. Or is it still globally accepted within the research community that PTSD is PTSD? Are you able to now narrow it down exactly?
View Ben Lobb Profile
CPC (ON)
View Ben Lobb Profile
2011-03-02 17:10
Yes, I understand that.
I'll close with an experience that I've encountered. At one time, I was a competitive baseball player. You've talked about freezing once the adrenalin starts flowing. I always found relief pitchers interesting. You could warm up in the bullpen and throw strike after strike, but as soon as you crossed that line, you couldn't throw a strike to save your life. I know that's not PTSD, but it's to do with the adrenalin flow and all the--
View Gary Schellenberger Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you.
I have the last question. You said earlier that there's research that says that the depression rate for people leaving the military is twice what it is in the general population. Could you send us that research?
View Gary Schellenberger Profile
CPC (ON)
I call the meeting to order.
Welcome, everyone, to meeting number 40 of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are conducting a study of combat stress and its consequences on the mental health of veterans and their families.
Today from Canberra, Australia, on video conference, we have Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew Cohn, assistant director, mental health education and training. Am I correct?
Sir, I am Gary Schellenberger, and I'm the chair of the standing committee. Welcome.
If you'd like to make your presentation, we are joined with the rest of the committee. We'd like to hear your presentation, and if you can accept some questions after that, that'd be great.
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