Canadian veterans may face a “recipe for disaster”. A new police program aims to help

A new program to help police officers safely assist military veterans in crisis is now available to police departments across the country.

Launched in September by the Toronto Police Service, the Military Veterans Wellness Program is the result of years of work by two Canadian Forces soldiers-turned-police officers to help veterans experiencing homelessness or mental health crisis.

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The program provides training for police officers so they can better respond to veterans they encounter in the line of duty, taking into account both their military training and potential experience of severe trauma.

It also provides officers with a referral form to easily connect veterans to the multitude of supports they are entitled to, but may otherwise be difficult to access.

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Click to play the video: “Helping Veterans Heal and Reintegrate”

Helping Veterans Heal and Reintegrate

“The social services we partnered with for this program saved my life,” said Const. Jeremy Burns, one of the program’s co-founders, who knows firsthand how the trauma of military service can linger long after veterans have returned home.

« We lost 14 on our tour, but I lost several more when I got home, » Burns said. « I don’t know which is more tragic. »

Burns served three and a half years in the Canadian Forces stationed in Edmonton with the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.

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After being deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, Burns said he returned home a different person, struggling to fit into the society he fought to defend.

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“I had to really transform into a very different person to go to war and serve,” he said. « Being hypervigilant in a war zone is fantastic, but if I’m turned on and hypervigilant all the time at home, it’s exhausting and really sets you apart. »

Jeremy Burns deployed for about six months to Afghanistan in 2009. He says he struggled with his identity after returning home and leaving the military. (Courtesy of Jeremy Burns).

(Courtesy of Jeremy Burns)

Burns found a kinship with fellow veteran Const. Aaron Dale. The couple met in 2018, when the two signed their contracts to join the Toronto Police Department.

Dale served approximately five years in the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR), an elite, globally deployable special forces unit specializing in operations in high-risk environments.

Leaving the tight-knit unit proved more difficult than expected, with Dale missing his colleagues and struggling to find new purpose.

After serving several years as a reservist, Aaron Dale was selected to join the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, specializing in mountain operations and intelligence. (Courtesy of Aaron Dale).

(Courtesy of Aaron Dale)

He credits Burns with helping him deal with this loss of identity and encouraged him to seek help.

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« He kind of sat me down and said, ‘Hey, you’re not as good as you could be right now. There is no shame in asking for help. Let’s ask for help,” Burns said.

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Veterans often face challenges stemming from their military service, including physical and mental health issues, difficulties integrating into civilian life, and a reluctance to seek help, due to a military culture who values ​​tenacity and perseverance.

The Military Veteran Wellness Program provides a simple form for frontline police officers, making it easier for them to connect veterans in crisis with the range of supports available to them. (World News).

World News

A 2019 Statistics Canada report found that transitioning to civilian life can be particularly difficult, with 36% of veterans saying theirs is very or moderately difficult.

« They feel so detached from everyone else, » said Genevieve Boudreault, a psychologist specializing in combat stress and post-traumatic stress disorder, who helped develop the military veteran wellness program.

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« Add to that irritability and coping mechanisms like alcohol or drugs – it’s a recipe for disaster. »

Without support, these challenges can leave veterans out of work, struggling to manage their relationships and more likely to end up on the streets – and in some cases interacting with police in crisis mode.

« There’s a lot of help out there, but it’s hard to navigate, it’s hard to ask for help and it’s hard to get it when you’re hurting, » Dale said.

Burns and Dale soon realized that others shared their struggle and worse, as they met veterans in crisis at work – men and women who had served their country and protected others, now at home. other end of a 911 call.

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One such veteran was Garett Oliver, who was living in his truck when he first met Dale while suffering a mental health crisis.

Oliver said receiving help from another veteran, who knew what resources could help him beyond his immediate crisis, was invaluable in turning his life around.

“He was able to guide me on a path that I needed to follow to sort out my situation in life,” he said. « I owe him and Jeremy the world for what they did for me. »

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It was experiences like those that led Burns and Dale to create the military veteran wellness program in the first place.

Developed in partnership with the Ontario Provincial Police, Toronto Police Veterans Association, Royal Canadian Legion, Veterans Affairs Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces Operational Stress Injury Social Support Program, the program combines Burns and Dale’s direct experience as veterans. with the latest expertise in mental health, incident response and de-escalation.

Burns and Dale hope police forces across the country will embrace the program, especially as more veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan leave the Canadian Forces.

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While veteran homelessness and suicide remain daunting challenges, Burns says he hopes the program will help those who have served their country so selflessly get the help they need and deserve. .

« No matter what struggle they’re struggling with, there’s something available to help them out, » Burns said. « We just have to get to a point where we’re all comfortable asking for this help. »

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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