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More than 6,700 veterans from Afghan war receiving federal assistance for PTSD

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OTTAWA — Canada’s war in Afghanistan ended five years ago but the price of that effort continues to grow.

Newly revealed figures show the number of veterans from the war in Afghanistan receiving federal support for mental-health conditions nearly doubled between March 2014 and March 2018.

The figures are in a report obtained from Veterans Affairs Canada through access-to-information legislation and underscore the enduring toll the war has taken on the mental health of many military members who served there. They also highlight the importance of adequate mental-health services for veterans, which successive federal governments have sought to address over the years with mixed results.

The report was provided to former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould in January upon her appointment as veterans-affairs minister, a post she held for only a few weeks before resigning amid the SNC-Lavalin affair.

According to the document, more than 6,700 military members who served in Afghanistan received disability benefits for mental-health conditions in March 2018 — an increase of nearly 3,200 from the same month in 2014.

In both cases, the vast majority of those receiving benefits for mental conditions were struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder “directly related to their service in Afghanistan,” according to the report.

In fact, PTSD was found to have been the top medical diagnosis for Afghan war veterans applying for assistance, as compared to hearing loss and ringing in the ears for service members who had not deployed to Afghanistan.

More than 40,000 Canadians served in the 13-year Afghanistan mission, which began with fighting the Taliban after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and progressed to trying to stabilize and rebuild the war-torn country.

That means nearly 17 per cent of all Canadian military personnel who deployed to Afghanistan have received federal assistance for psychological trauma sustained during the war.

Successive federal governments have been criticized for years over the support provided to such veterans, with concerns raised about financial assistance and long wait times for mental-health services.

Veterans Affairs Canada recently revealed nearly 40,000 veterans were waiting at the end of November to hear if their applications for financial assistance would be approved, 11,000 more than the previous year.

And more than one-third of them had been in the queue longer than 16 weeks, which was also an increase and a sign that veterans were waiting ever longer to find out whether they were entitled to assistance.

While Veterans Affairs did not say how many of those applications related to psychological injuries, an internal report obtained by The Canadian Press last year found demand for mental-health services routinely outstripped available resources.

The federal auditor general has also reported on long wait times for such services.

Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay’s spokesman Alex Wellstead said there has been an overall increase in the number of former service members who have “put trust in their government and come forward to get help.”

And while he acknowledged that “there is more work to do,” Wellstead said the government is spending billions of dollars on new supports and services as well as additional staff to ensure veterans get the help they need.

The newly released report shows the officials approved 96 per cent of the 2,453 applications for assistance from veterans with PTSD in 2017-18, whereas the approval rates for many other medical conditions were between 75 and 85 per cent.

At the same time, Wellstead noted the department recently established a partnership with the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre to research psychological trauma and provide better advice and support to health-care professionals.

“When it comes to mental-health supports, we work with over 4,000 mental health professionals across the country to ensure veterans get the help that they need,” he said in an email.

“As well, we have hired over 700 new staff to replace the ones the previous government fired, which is helping the processing times. … There is more work to do, but we’re going to continue to do the important work that Canadians expect.”

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Alberta

Alberta’s COVID-19 breakthrough – Highest number of tests and lowest number of new cases in one day

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Dr. Deena Hinshaw

It certainly appears to be a sign that the first wave of COVID-19 is abating.  Friday, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer reported 6,455 people were tested over the last 24 hours and there were only 7 new positive cases.   This resulted in a very interesting video update from Dr. Deena Hinshaw as the province announced several changes that will be resulting from the success of Alberta’s battle with COVID-19.

Albertans will soon be able to visit loved ones in hospital.  The province will continue to move toward protecting Albertans at the highest risk of severe outcomes.  That means more freedoms for the majority of Albertans as the province prepares to announce Stage 2 details early next week.

 

‘Just went crazy:’ Group gets lots of interest in random camping on public land

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Community

Quitting gave me better health, my dignity and more cash

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Quitting gave me better health, my dignity and more cash

I had this terrible constant cough. It was like I had a cold that never went away. When I did actually get a cold it was like I was never getting any better. I also began noticing that when I would cough I would release a small amount of urine. After a while as the cough progressed the urine would come out in larger quantities. I could no longer wear just a panty liner I was wearing full sized extra absorbent pads. When I was out with family and friends having a good time, I would laugh and start choking uncontrollably forcing so much urine out that I would wet through my pants and have to go home. Even if I just went to the bathroom I would still wet myself. I thought at 38 I would be in Depends.

I had thought about quitting smoking many times but I think stress was my number one deterrent from quitting. Every time I was gonna try, something would cause me stress, I had myself tricked into thinking that smoking was the only way I could deal with stress. Stress came from everywhere, work home and finances.

I tried to quit before on two occasions however, I was not successful on either one.  The first time I used the patch, but couldn’t break the habit. The second time was with Champix and I was smoke-free for approximately 2 and a half months when I said to a friend that smokes that I was having a craving.  She said sometimes you just need one to take the edge off and gave me a cigarette. I stopped and bought a pack on my way home.

This time I used the Champix again. I stopped constant communication with friends and family who smoke. I misplaced the last 2 weeks of the Champix program and had no clue where the pills went, but I just keep telling myself I can do it. When I have a craving I give myself something to do so I don’t think about it- shift the focus. Also in the past I noticed that when I have cigarettes I don’t crave as much and when I was almost out or out, I smoked what I had quickly or felt like I was dying until I could get some. My other secret is I still have an opened package of cigarettes to help curb cravings. I don’t want to get rid of them or I’ll want them.

Now, I feel like I can breathe better, smell better and everything tastes better. That nasty constant cough was gone about 2 weeks after I quit. I still have a bit of a cough but no longer pee when I cough. I hated the life that whenever I coughed I peed. All I had to do was stop smoking. I can laugh and enjoy myself without choking. It’s amazing! I wish I never started smoking. I used to use a ton of salt on my food now I can enjoy a meal without any salt, food tastes so much better. When a smoker is sitting next to me I don’t want to be rude but they stink so bad I gag. I feel so bad that my boyfriend had to smell that on me every day.

I suggest any smoker Quits! If there is anything you can change about yourself for the better its quit smoking. I wish I would have the first time because my health was heading on a downward slope and now I feel more alive and energetic like I was when I was a kid. Distance yourself from others who smoke or that aren’t supportive. I started the Champix late December 2019 and started back at school on January 6, 2020. I said I wouldn’t smoke on that day but I did have just one, so January 7, 2020 became my quit date. It was hard at first but I stuck it out and I am glad I did. The PCN Family Nurse gave me good advice and support; I really appreciate that!

Read more success stories from the Primary Care Network.

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june, 2020

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