Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Military's Response to Suicides 'Cold Comfort' to Victim's Families

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Military's Response to Suicides 'Cold Comfort' to Victim's Families

Article excerpt

Military blames soldiers for suicides: family


OTTAWA - The Canadian military's response to a recent series of suicides within its ranks is "cold comfort" to the families of victims, says the mother of a soldier who took his own life.

Mental illness continues to be stigmatized, despite high-profile appeals from the prime minister and the country's defence chief for troops to come forward and deal with their problems, said Sheila Fynes, whose plight has been documented by a defence watchdog.

Months of testimony before the Military Police Complaints Commission, which examined the circumstances surrounding the 2008 death of her son, Cpl. Stuart Langridge, painted a stark picture of how his depression and substance abuse were treated as a discipline problem, rather than an illness related to his service.

Fynes said she and her husband are in regular contact with Afghan veterans, who often call looking for non-judgmental support. The sheer number of conversations convinced her that soldiers who ask for help are often treated like "losers and drunks" who had a problem before putting on a uniform.

A number of suicides have rocked the Canadian Forces over the last three months. While the circumstances of each are different, the military response has generally been that programs and services are in place, and it's up to individuals to seek treatment.

"So, it's very subtle, but the message is: 'If they can't step up, we can't be responsible,'" said Fynes.

"I think that's very cold comfort to the families of the soldiers who've died. They say they've done everything to remove the stigma. What exactly have they done to remove the stigma?"

The Department of National Defence has conducted several high-profile campaigns to encourage those who might be suffering in silence, but in a recent statement, the country's top military commander, Gen. Tom Lawson, underscored the notion of personal responsibility. …

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