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OSI’s and Mental Health Awareness in Veterans

On Remembrance Day and throughout the year it is important to remember and support the people who have and continue to serve Canada. As we think about the people who have lost their lives protecting our nation, let’s also remember those who have fought and returned home, those who have witnessed war and witnessed their own losses. Many veterans have lived through catastrophic events and continue to live with the repercussions; let’s not forget the toll these events can have on a person and community, but let’s also not forget the help and care available. This Remembrance Day let us remember the freedoms that veterans have granted us, and let us grant them the freedom of destigmatized mental healthcare and accessibility to the programs and clinics needed.

What is an OSI?

An Operational Stress Injury is a persistent psychological struggle from duties including combat and law enforcement. OSI’s can include PTSD, substance use disorders, anxiety, and mood disorders.

Symptoms of OSI’s

OSI’s can include a wide range of symptoms including:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anger
  • Irritability, or mood changes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sensitivity to surroundings (hypervigilance)
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Decrease or loss of interest in activities
  • Avoidance behaviours

Getting Help

An estimated 10 -20% of people in combat or law enforcement careers develop an OSI. Operational stress injuries are nothing to be ashamed of or to feel guilty for, and there is help if you or a loved one is struggling.

  • If you are struggling with an OSI there are resources available and people who want to help. You can speak to medical professionals or trusted loved ones, use community resources such as OSI clinics, or become informed yourself on your triggers and symptoms – know what helps you and what doesn’t, communicate those triggers or boundaries with your loved ones.
  • If you have a loved one who has an OSI or struggles with mental health remember to listen and validate their feelings. Support and advice for family members is also available at most OSI clinics and over the phone or online. Remember your own mental and physical health matters too, set limits of what you are able to help others with and seek your own support if needed.

VAC (Veterans Affairs Canada) Assistance Service

Available 24 hours a day via phone. Available to Veterans, RCMP, families, and caregivers.

Phone: 1-800-268-7708

OSI Clinics are currently located across Canada in:

  • Calgary
  • Dartmouth
  • Edmonton
  • Fredericton
  • London
  • Montreal
  • Ottawa
  • Quebec City (available only in French)
  • Winnipeg
  • Vancouver

Calgary Clinic – https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/findhealth/Service.aspx?id=1009318&serviceAtFacilityID=1057355#contentStart

Edmonton Clinic – https://www.ementalhealth.ca/index.php?m=record&ID=13265

Disclaimer

Information in this document is written to provide general information and resources, this does not replace information given by a medical professional. For specific situations, contact your doctor or health care provider.

References

https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/health-support/mental-health-and-wellness/assessment-treatment/osi-clinics

https://ontario.cmha.ca/provincial-policy/criminal-justice/operational-stress-injury/

https://www.ementalhealth.ca/Ottawa-Carleton/Operational-Stress-Injury-OSI/index.php?m=article&ID=13254

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November 10, 2020

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