Coroner probing suicide of Quebec soldier wounded in Afghanistan

A Canadian soldier who had to have part of his leg amputated due to wounds he suffered in Afghanistan has taken his own life in his Quebec apartment.

A Canadian soldier who lost part of his leg after being wounded in Afghanistan has taken his own life in his Quebec apartment.

The Quebec coroner's office is investigating the death of Frederic Couture, whoshot himselfearlier this week at home in Roxton Pond, Que.

Couture was 21 when he stepped on a landmine while on patrol in the Panjwaii district of Kandahar in December 2006.

He was the first soldier from CFB Valcartier to be wounded there.Couture's left leghad to be amputated below the knee.

But he drew media attention for his positive attitude and determination to move forward despite his injury.

In an interview with CBC News in January, Couture appeared optimistic about his future.

"My life is not finished. I'm going to have a prosthesis," he said."And all the things that I was doing, I'm going todo it in the future. It's not because I lost a foot that I can't do anything."

In his home town of Roxton Pond, neighbours said they were shocked to hear about Couture's death, although some said he appeared to be having a hard time and hadn't left his home in a while.

Retiredbrigadier-general Gaston Côté of the Canadian Forcessaid Couture seemed to be recovering well both mentally and physically and thathelp was available.

"From what I know about the system, everything was probably done," Côté said. But he said you can't make a person talk about their problems if they don't want to.

"Soit's difficult to make sure the mental health of our soldiers is up to par."

A recent military survey of returned soldiers found that nearly 400 of the 2,700 who had served in Kandahar may have come home with mental health problems.

The survey found problems ranged from post-traumatic stress disorder to suicidal tendencies, although high-risk drinking was the predominant problem.

Rob Tyler, a former infantry captain and psychotherapist, said soldiers often mask their true feelings.

"A lot of these people are having night terrors, wake up sweating as they went back to whatever it was and relived it again," he said. "Flashbacks during the day. A car backfires and to them it sounds like small arms fire."

George Dumont, a former soldier recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder, said many soldiers try to deny their psychological suffering.

"We are supposed to be somewhat invulnerable, invincible. And when you come to terms with yourself, realizing you're just a human being like everybody else,it's pretty hard to swallow knowing that all your friendswill shun you and put you aside because you are sick."

Dumont alsosaid there is little the military could have done to help Couture if he didn't ask for help.

Speaking in Quebec City on Friday, Heritage Minister Josée Verner offered her condolences to Couture's family and said the Canadian military offers all possible support to soldiers returning from Afghanistan.

With files from the Canadian Press