Monday, June 22, 2009

Recent Toronto Star Afghan Coverage Identifies Effects of PTSD on Canadian Veterans

Toronto Star reporter David Bruser has recently published a series of
articles on what it claims is a growing trend - young Canadian males who
have served one or more tours in Afghanistan and suffering from
post-traumatic stress disorder, now appearing in the courts system on
criminal charges relating to assault, domestic assault, drug abuse, and
weapons charges.

In his own words:

"I had been searching for guys like this - soldiers who came back from
the war damaged and dangerous. My hunch was that as Canada's commitment
in Afghanistan deepens, there is a mounting cost not measured in
taxpayer dollars or battlefield casualties. I wanted to know if soldiers
were bringing the violence home. Violence to themselves, their wives,
even strangers."
See the article this quote comes from:

One of the soldiers Bruser found is Private Matthew Keddy, pictured here during his tour in Afghanistan:

The following in an excerpt from Bruser's article:

IN HIS FAST FALL from soldier to suspect, Pte. Matthew Charles Keddy,
without a criminal record before the war, has shared the same courtroom
as drunk drivers and an armed robber sentenced to six years in a federal
Prosecutor: "According to the information the (military is) getting,
he's not cooperating with the program."
Judge McCarroll: "Well, if he's mentally ill, maybe that's the problem.
Maybe he can't comply. Maybe it's not his fault. Maybe it's as a result
of the fact that he went overseas, saw some terrible things and is back
here, suffering from some kind of a stress type of situation that he
needs help for."
Keddy violated a court order to stay out of Saint John when he went to
the bridge. (The order stemmed from the assault charge involving his
girlfriend.) On this day, Oct. 20, 2008, Judge McCarroll tells Keddy he
must stay on the base, CFB Gagetown, unless accompanied by his parents,
and undergo a psychological assessment.
Judge McCarroll: "How about it, Matthew? Are you willing to go through
the program that they have up there (on the base)?"
Keddy: "I just want to go home."
Judge McCarroll: "Home with your parents, you mean?"
Keddy: "Yeah. You send me up there, I'm going to go nuts."
The microphone picks up Keddy's sniffles. His voice shakes.
Keddy: "They say they're going to help me, but they don't help me. They
don't care ... (sniffling) ... They don't care."
Judge McCarroll (addressing Keddy's stepfather in the courtroom
gallery): "How was everything before he went overseas?"
Stepfather: "Oh it was good. He was happy. He was excited about life. He
loved Canada."
Keddy: "I was normal."

There is no question that David Bruser has found some Afghan veterans
who are profoundly damaged by their experience in theatre. One
particularly haunting story is that of Jason Mann, a former infantry
corporal who says "You know what would make me happy?" he says, tears
welling in his eyes. "Going back there and getting killed."
He grabs the hem of his T-shirt and lifts it to wipe his face.
"I think I would have been a better man if I had died there. Weird,
huh?" See the complete article on Jason Mann here.

Another poignant profile is that of Warrant Officer Roger Perreault, a
combat engineer injured by an improvised explosive device in 2006 and
still struggling, together with his family, with the physical,
psychological and emotional aftermath of that injury. See his story here.

Without wishing to impugn the editorial bias of the Toronto Star, it
would be worth asking David Bruser and his editors if they are aware of
efforts made by the Canadian Forces to assist members with PTSD, such as
the OSISS (Occupational Stress Injury Social Support) program (offered by The Centre, a program run by The Directorate of Casualty Support Management (see their website here.

A document posted on the website of the Director Military Family Services states the CF's mission and priorities quite clearly:

"The Military has now recognized that it cannot simply ask that those who suffer from an OSI put all their efforts into personal change and personal growth while the Canadian Forces itself does not evolve. As well, it is now understood that creating OTSSCs to increase the ability to treat military personnel while not addressing the larger social support.aspects of operational stress injuries is bound for failure in
the long term because it incorrectly assumes that soldiers can individually change and survive in an institution that has not evolved.

The Operational Stress Injury Social Support project will hopefully result in a gradual cultural shift in the Canadian Forces charting a new course for it's future. OSISS will not only assist those who suffer from an operational stress injury but also help integrate and support those who suffer from other psycho-societal difficulties that military operations can cause."

So Mad Padre kudos to the Toronto Star for raising the effects of PTSD on soldiers, their families, and on our legal system, but my wish that the coverage focused on efforts made by the CF and by Veterans Affairs to help these soldiers and their families.


styler said...

I'd be curious to know if anyone has contrasted and compared the Canadian and American programs to deal with returning soldier's issues.

mad padre said...

Steve - don't know for sure what the answer to that question is, but my sense is that the American military is probably steps ahead of us by virtue of their greater experience. One of the programs I've been hearing a lot of out of the US is the Army's Wounded Warrior program - see There are some smaller scale programs with similar names (see in Canada but they appear to be programs originated by family members.

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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