Mental health course offered for veterans, families

A free Veteran Family Program called Mental Health First Aid will be offered in Prince George this weekend, geared for medically-released veterans, family members and anyone who provides services to them.

With more than 700 military and veteran families in Prince George, as well at the Veterans Affairs Canada office located here once again, this is the ideal location to host the two-day program.

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The course goes Saturday

and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Sandman Signature, 2990 Recplace Dr.

The Mainland BC Military Family Resource Centre (BCMFRC) launched the Veteran Family Program last April on behalf of Veteran Affairs Canada and offers support to veterans and their families as they transition from military to civilian life.

Medically-released veterans can experience a host of mental health issues that will be discussed during the course, including mood, anxiety, trauma-associated, psychotic and substance-use disorders.

As with anyone administering first aid to a physically ailing person, the course offers next-level readiness for things like drug overdose, suicidal behaviour, panic attacks, episodes of psychosis and acute stress.

The course will ensure participants are equipped with the skills and given the confidence needed to participate in conversations about mental health and offer ways of recognizing symptoms of a wide range of mental health issues.

"Mental health issues are often met with significant stigma in the world," said Tracy Cromwell, BCMFRC executive director, who will be attending the course in Prince George.

"That's what's so great about Mental Health First Aid - Veteran Community because the course is about helping others, participants don't have to worry about standing out as having a problem if they attend. In this way, the course is truly non-threatening for those who'd like to learn more about dealing with these issues."

Canadian Armed Forces Corporal Angela Ayre was medically released from the military and is now the coordinator of the Veteran Family Program. She has taken the Mental Health First Aid course and experienced the transition from military to civilian life herself.

Ayre, who lives in Port Moody and works from the BCMFRC office in Vancouver, said the course really helped her become more comfortable and knowledgable about mental health issues which veterans can experience.

Ayre now helps medically-released veterans and their families transition into civilian life after military service.

"Serving in the military is not like a regular job," Ayre said. "Soldiers eat, breathe and sleep their job. Everything they do is closely knit. They are willing to die for the person beside them. They are operationally trained to go to war and to sacrifice."

Some of the veterans and families Ayre helps are those facing mental health issues. Veterans and their families can be educated about those issues and provided with the tools to support each other during the workshop.

"The course helped me be a better listener," Ayre said.

The two-day course is open to all members of the community who support veterans and their families. Mental Health First Aid offers certification upon completion of the course. Space is limited with priority given to medically-released or soon-to-be released veterans and their families. Register by Feb. 15 by contacting veterans@bcmfrc.com.

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