Let’s Talk: Mental Health Awareness and the Invictus Games
It’s finally 2017, the year Canada will play host to the third and largest Invictus Games!
Toronto will soon welcome 550 wounded, ill and injured servicemen, women and veterans — from 17 nations — to compete in a dozen sports.
The Invictus Games will also give us an opportunity to talk more openly about many issues facing our military families. Issues like physical accessibility, employment transition and post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI).
This month, we are partnering with Bell Media, exclusive broadcast partner of the Invictus Games Toronto 2017, to highlight the invisible injuries sustained by our soldiers as a result of their service. For the first time, Bell will be profiling a veteran in its annual Let’s Talk Day — a campaign they launched seven years ago to help remove the stigma around mental illness, which affects 1 in 5 Canadians.
We hope that the people across Canada who watch and participate in the Games will become more aware of these important issues and may even reach out to someone who may need their help. We look forward to playing our role in this important conversation and using these Games to improve the lives of many individuals and their families.
Happy New Year!
Michael Burns, Chief Executive Officer for the Invictus Games Toronto 2017 Organizing Committee
Bell Let’s Talk Campaign with Invictus Games Alumni Bruno Guévremont
One of the biggest hurdles for anyone suffering from mental illness is overcoming the stigma. It is the number one reason why two-thirds of those living with mental illness do not seek help.
The Bell Let’s Talk awareness campaign encourages a national conversation about mental illness and helps fight the stigma and impact of mental health issues across Canada.
Last year, a record 122,150,772 tweets, texts, calls and shares were made as part of the campaign, helping to raise more than $6.1 million for mental health initiatives. The hashtag #BellLetsTalk was a number-one trend on Twitter in Canada and worldwide, with a total of 4,775,708 tweets made.
As the exclusive Canadian broadcast partner for the Invictus Games Toronto 2017, Bell has announced that Bruno Guévremont, captain of the 2016 Invictus Games Team Canada, will be the newest ambassador in the 2017 Bell Let’s Talk campaign. A 15-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Navy, Bruno has struggled with post-traumatic stress injury since his release from the military. This will be the first time in the campaign’s seven-year history that a soldier or veteran will be profiled, and doing so will certainly help increase public awareness of the broad spectrum of mental health issues faced by members of our military community.
This month, help us make a change. Join the conversation around mental illness and take part in Bell Let’s Talk activities.
|#IAM #BellLetsTalk Twitter Chat
Help us break the stigma around mental health by participating in our Mental Health Awareness Twitter chat on January 25, Bell Let’s Talk Day. From noon to 1 p.m. (ET) follow us on Twitter (@InvictusToronto) and show your support for those coping with invisible wounds by using hashtags #IAM #BellLetsTalk.
For every tweet using #BellLetsTalk, Bell will contribute 5 cents to programs dedicated to mental health!
Tune-In to the Newly-Launched Invictus Games Radio Podcast!
Most of us will never know the horrors of combat. Many servicemen and women suffer life-changing injuries, both visible and invisible, while serving their countries. The Invictus Games Radio podcast gives a voice to those working for — and impacted by — physical or invisible injuries to military servicemen, women and veterans. In this podcast series, we will bring to life the stories of those affected, their family members and the people who care for them, and in their own voices.
Invictus Games Radio provides the listener with the opportunity to get up close and personal with these stories and have the chance to truly understand the impact and sacrifice that military service has had on these men and women.
In our first episode, we explore post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with Col. Rakesh Jetly, psychiatrist with the Canadian Armed Forces and mental health advisor to the surgeon general. Canadian military who served in Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, or post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) as Invictus Games competitors prefer to call it, at almost twice the rate of the rest of the Canadian population. The problem is serious.
In this episode, Colonel Rakesh Jetly discusses the challenges of coping with and treating mental health issues for active and retired members of the Canadian military family.
Colonel Jetly is a well-known international speaker and the author of numerous articles published on the subject of mental health. His professional, knowledgeable and empathetic approach to mental health comes through loud and clear in this podcast conversation.
Talking About Mental Health — Joel Guidon Shares His Story
Retired Master Corporal Joel Guidon served with the army and completed tours of duty in both Bosnia and Afghanistan. Upon his return, it was clear to Joel and his family that he was not himself. Before PTSD, Joel was motivated, active and enjoyed life. When PTSD hit, everything changed. The Invictus Games gave him an opportunity to turn his life around, and an outlet to cope with his stress injury.
In this video, Joel speaks honestly about his struggle with post-traumatic stress, and how adaptive sport changed his life. It’s important that we encourage an open conversation about mental health and related struggles. Let’s talk.
Signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, with Psychologist Vivien Lee
PTSD has emerged as a leading issue for Canadian military veterans, especially those who served in combat missions in Afghanistan. Psychologist Vivien Lee from Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has treated many of those vets, whose lives fell apart when they were repatriated to Canada. We spoke to her about her work with veterans and how to identify signs of PTSD.
Key Symptoms of PTSD:
Intrusive thoughts: Nightmares and flashbacks. Memories just pop into their head and they can’t get them out. Triggers like a car backfiring and they think it’s a gunshot or bomb going off.
Avoidance: Actively trying to push traumatic memories out of their head. It can involve a lot of drinking, drugs or anything to numb their brains.
Negative changes in thought process: Some veterans see themselves as damaged or broken. They may blame themselves for things that happened, especially if they lost a member of their platoon. They rely on each other for their lives, and it feels very much like losing a family member.
Hypervigilance: During a combat mission, they constantly have to look out for threat. While doing so keeps them alive, it’s not adaptable to everyday life. They can go into a grocery store and be constantly scanning for danger. Veterans with PTSD can’t turn that part of their brain off.
The good news is that the growing awareness of the prevalence and impact of PTSD means that more veterans are coming forward to seek help, and are getting the treatment and support they need.