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Troops urged to seek help as use of mental-health services hits 'all-time low'

Last Updated Apr 26, 2020 at 2:52 pm PDT

FILE: Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

OTTAWA — Canada’s top military officer is urging his troops to reach out for help if it’s required, as the use of mental health services for military personnel has reached an all-time low.

Chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance says in an open letter to all Canadian Armed Forces members that there may be legitimate reasons fewer of them are calling military helplines or accessing mental-health professionals.

But he says those who need such assistance should reach out, given the added stress and anxiety that is being felt by many people because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decline in use of mental-health services by military personnel contrasts with reports of a surge in demand at civilian crisis centres and other mental-health organizations.

Vance’s letter also comes only weeks after The Canadian Press reported that 20 members of the Armed Forces took their own lives last year, the largest number of military suicides since 2014.

Vance has ordered the majority of Canadian military personnel to isolate at home to ensure they remain healthy for whenever the Forces are called upon to assist with the pandemic or a natural disaster.