By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – A candlelight vigil will expose the invisible wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that have led to a rash of suicides in both the Canadian military and the RCMP.
Friends of Vets, a local peer-to-peer support group, invites the public to the Cornwall Cenotaph on Second Street West, on Wednesday, October 22, at 6:30 p.m. for a somber event.
A rain date is scheduled for Thursday, October 23, at 6:30 p.m.
“The recent news of so many suicides in the military and RCMP is unacceptable to us,” said Gary Samler, president of Friends of Vets, in a media statement. “We want to take a stand for our fallen brothers and sisters, and to speak out to our government and community as caring Canadians to let everyone know this problem is very real and needs attention immediately.”
The vigil was announced shortly after Cpl. Ron Francis, a 21-year RCMP veteran in New Brunswick who was on medical leave, committed suicide on Oct. 6. He was 43. The death is being attributed to PTSD.
The RCMP has had 16 documented incidents of suicide among serving members over the past nine years, and 15 suicides among retired members, according to a recent CBC news report.
“Many Canadians are hurting after hearing in the news about the loss of more military war heroes and RCMP, who after serving our country proudly have chosen to end their lives because of PTSD,” said Samler.
He added that the deaths really hit home since several Friends of Vets members suffer from the disorder themselves.
“Many of us, especially those with loved ones who have served our country or are still serving, are asking what can be done to further prevent this kind of tragedy from always happening again and again? And to appeal to our soldiers and RCMP with mental health issues or depression to get help,” he said.
Between 2004 and March 31, 2014, 160 Canadian Armed Forces personnel have committed suicide, according to statistics released by the national defence department on Sept. 12.
The numbers include male regular forces members (118), female regular force personnel (10), and reservists (32).
Friends of Vets gather at the Cornwall Wesleyan Church (780 Sydney Street) for meetings on the first and third Thursday of every month starting at 7 p.m.
For more information, visit www.friendsofvets.org.