By: Teresa Park

Once a year, Canadians come together to commemorate the brave who died and those still fighting for our freedom. But as November passes, poppies are put away, and we move on.

But for some, every day is Remembrance Day. There are those among us who are in invisible pain, living in neither the present nor the past. For many veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, each day brings back the worst moments of their past – often through vivid visions and nightmares.

PTSD is a mental disorder that can manifest after traumatic experiences such as war, sexual violence, and major accidents. People with PTSD often describe feelings of “numbness” and “emptiness.” They might avoid certain activities, public spaces, or socializing with others for fear of triggering past memories. At times, they are unable to feel any positive emotions, and have little or no plans for the future. Depression, alcohol and/or drug abuse, and anxiety disorders are conditions that commonly occur with PTSD.

The Canadian Forces Mental Health Survey of 2013 estimated that 5.3 percent of Canadian war veterans are currently experiencing PTSD, a number that has doubled since 2002. Generally, one in six members of the Canadian military report experiencing symptoms of mental or alcohol-related disorders. In the 1990s, many war veterans suffered in silence, but as soldiers begin speaking up about their psychological wounds, they also start raising awareness.

There are support systems in place for those suffering from the condition, including clinical counseling and Paws Fur Thought, a non-profit organization that provides trained service dogs for veterans with PTSD. Unfortunately, there are still many who go on living in pain, and due to limited resources, there are also those who remain stuck on long wait-lists, unable to receive timely assistance. This past summer, three veterans, Steve Hartwig,

Jason McKenzie, and Scott McFarlane, marched across Canada to raise awareness about military-induced PTSD. The campaign, “Into No Man’s Land” solicited $15,000 for mental health initiatives.

PTSD is not a sign of weakness nor is it an indication of failed resilience or readjustment. Our troops’ battles do not end simply because they are back on Canadian soil. Let us support our veterans as they continue to show bravery and strength every time they reach out for help. Lest we forget.

For more information and ways to help, visit Wounded Warriors. Get involved with McMaster’s very own COPE: A Student Mental Health Initiative to help fight the stigma against mental illnesses.

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