Dallaire Speaks Candidly about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

By Paul, Alexandra | Winnipeg Free Press, November 21, 2016 | Go to article overview

Dallaire Speaks Candidly about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


Paul, Alexandra, Winnipeg Free Press


RETIRED soldier, general and senator Roméo Dallaire brought the face of post-traumatic stress disorder in the military to public attention in Canada.

In Winnipeg Sunday, a standing-room only audience greeted the man and paid tribute to the heart-wrenching account of his personal struggles in his new book Waiting for First Light, My Ongoing Struggle with PTSD .

In an hour-long talk with moderator and CBC broadcaster Terry MacLeod at the Grant Park McNally Robinson bookstore, Dallaire sketched the broad outlines of the 1993 genocide in Rwanda and the reasons his appeals for help fell on deaf ears from the United Nations on down to practically every international power.

Canada sent him two Hercules aircraft and 11 staff officers.

He talked about the burden of PTSD on returning soldiers. Dallaire calls PTSD an "operational brain injury."

He urged the audience to take on the burden of his personal mission and help soldiers get the therapy and care they need.

They gave him a standing ovation.

Therapy for war vets who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder is still an emerging issue in Canada, and providing treatment and care through the military is only now gaining attention from the public and the country's political and military leaders.

Dallaire said there are 250,000 war vets in Canada, soldiers and reservists who have accumulated more time in combat than veterans from the Second World War. PTSD is still stigmatized and the programs that once routinely greeted those vets two or three generations ago, such as free university tuition, aren't available today, let alone the kinds of aid soldiers with psychological scars desperately need.

"If you don't treat treat PTSD as soon as you can, it gets worse," he said Sunday. "And it can be terminal."

There were 158 soldiers who were killed in combat in the Canadian mission to Afghanistan. Since then, there have been 70 suicides, Dallaire said.

Dallaire served as the commanding officer for an ill-fated UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda in 1993-94, and tried to stop the genocide waged by Hutu extremists against Tutsis and Hutu moderates.

In 1997, the lieutenant general with the Canadian military went public with the psychological trauma caused by the atrocities he witnessed. …

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