'Never really talked about it:' Mental health conversations for veterans evolving with increased investments

'Never really talked about it:' Mental health conversations for veterans evolving with increased investments

Veteran Bill Gard remembers a time when mental health challenges weren’t discussed in the military and as a result military members and their families were often left to suffer through struggles on their own.

“People came home and never really talked about it and never had any assistance and I know a number of guys who’s father’s turned to alcohol and had very difficult upbringings because of it, because of their service during the war,” Gard said.

Bill Gard is a Veteran who remembers when mental health struggles for those who served ‘were never talked about.’

Alexa MacLean/Global News

While Gard says he never suffered any direct mental or physical trauma during his active duty, he knows plenty of colleagues who weren’t as lucky.

“One of my classmates is Roméo Dallaire. He was the General in charge in Rawanda, 1993-94, when 800,000 people were massacred and he was there and not able to stop it. So, tremendous problems for him,” he said.

Now, two Nova Scotia based organizations will be providing increased mental health supports for Veterans through investments made by the Government of Canada.

Lawrence MacAulay, the Federal Minister of Veterans Affairs made the announcement Tuesday at the Nova Scotia Hospital in Dartmouth.

Over $700,000 is being provided to the two organizations through a special fund created to support mental health initiatives for Veterans.

“Launched in 2018 the Veterans Family and Well-Being Fund provides money to organizations that are working to make a real difference in the lives of Veterans and their families,” MacAulay said.

The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia will use their funding to support a 12-week day treatment program called Landing Strong.

The program, which focuses on social inclusion and acceptance, is based in Windsor, N.S.

“They allow Veterans and first responders who are injured to access services at varying levels of intensity depending on their own individual needs,” Starr Cunningham said, the president of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia.

The other program receiving support is the Canadian Women’s Wellness Initiative which offers stress-reduction training through transcendental meditation.

“TM [transcendental meditation] is very simple. You sort of go within, you settle down, you experience that quietness within and yes, it can be as effective as pharmaceuticals and medication as well but far less expensive,” Helen Creighton said, the national director of the program.

$3-million in grants are provided annually through the Veterans Family and Well-Being Fund.

It’s a program that veterans like Gard welcomes.

“We’ve come along way I think with the stories that have been told, written about and people that have been interviewed that we’ve learned of their struggles and for the longest time it wasn’t talked about it,” he said.