Survey reveals preliminary statistics on Forces’ mental health
On a morning last week when North American’s were talking about mental health disorders, especially depression, following the death by suicide of actor and comedian Robin Williams, Statistics Canada released survey results that show about one in six full-time regular members of the Canadian Armed Forces reported experiencing mental health or alcohol-related disorders in the previous 12 months.
The Canadian Forces Mental Health Survey, which involved one-on-one interviews with about 6,700 full-time regular forces members and 1,500 reservists between April and August 2013, measured six disorders: major depressive episode, post traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and alcohol abuse as well as alcohol dependence.
The initial results, which dealt only with full-time members, found that depression was the most prevalent, with eight percent meeting the criteria of experiencing persistent depressed mood or loss of interest in normal activities, along with other symptoms, for at least two weeks in the 12 months prior to the survey.
More than five percent (5.3) experienced symptoms consistent with post traumatic stress disorder. (PTSD will be one of a number of topics presented at the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research Forum on November 24-26 in Toronto.)
Almost five percent reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder and 3.4 percent showed symptoms consistent with panic disorder. The survey also found alcohol abuse or dependence was significant among 4.5 percent of full-time regular force members.
Since the Stats Canada survey, conducted in cooperation with National Defence, released only preliminary raw data, understanding the source of the illness is key, Col. Rakesh Jetly, chief psychiatrist for the Canadian Forces, told the CBC.
“I think it’s more important to find out what that number means. Are they getting care? If so, how is the care going? Are they at work? Are they absent? What is the quality of life like at home, and so on?” he said. “As we further analyze the data over the next couple of years, we’re going to get more of that rich kind of information.”
Recent media reports have highlighted the struggles of Chief of Military Personnel and the Health Services Group to hire sufficient mental health workers, many of whom are in high demand elsewhere in Canada.
Though the CAF is now close to meeting its initial targets, the military wants to hire 87 more full-time health services workers to support additional programs and requirements, the CBC reported.
A more detailed analysis of the survey, including findings on reservists who served in Afghanistan, will be released this fall.