The uncle of a Nova Scotia soldier who killed himself last week says more needs to be done to help members of the military transition from war zones.
Barry Mellish is reacting to news that his nephew, Warrant Officer Michael McNeil, was found dead at CFB Petawawa on Wednesday.
McNeil is one of three Canadian soldiers who took his own life last week.
Mellish said his nephew, known as Little Mike, was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from his last tour in Afghanistan.
"We knew he was hurting, but of course we’re not psychologists or doctors," he said.
Mellish claims there isn't enough being done for all returning soldiers.
"The psychologists need to interview you four to five different times before they get to know you and before you get to know them, before they build a bond," he said.
"That is not happening right now and I think everyone from a private right up to the general should have when they first come home mandatory debriefing by trained psychologists for at least the first month — and that should be five to 10 sessions."
He said in most cases soldiers have a short debriefing in Cyprus before they come home. Mellish said as someone who suffers from PTSD, he knows the effects often come weeks or even years later.
"Mike seemed to be very strong," he said. But "when you're back to that room at nighttime there's nobody there to talk to. You're all by yourself … that's when it seems to magnify in your head."
Mellish suggests psychologists should check in on veterans every few months.
McNeil’s family is gathering in Truro for his funeral on Thursday.
Limited mental health resources
Nova Scotia NDP MP Peter Stoffer said there are not enough mental health care workers across the country, let alone enough working in the Armed Forces.
“For the heroes of our country to eventually feel like they have to take their own lives because of what they’re going through, [it's] always deep sadness and regret that I hear that,” he said.
Stoffer also said many soldiers feel pressure to hide their PTSD to save their jobs.
"If you're no longer deployable, you're no longer employable," he said. "So what I think the government should do is allow them to stay, to first get their 10 years to be entitled to veterans' benefits, but also to ensure they are well trained and re-educated," he said.
Stoffer urges people to seek help if they are suffering from PTSD.