Veterans suffering from psychological problems including post-traumatic stress disorder will be able to seek intensive care at a new treatment facility near Montreal, Minister of Veterans Affairs Greg Thompson announced Thursday.

The residential clinic at the veteran's hospital in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue is the first of its kind in Canada, the department said.

The clinic will accommodate up to 10 patients at a time — including veterans, members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP — for stays of up to eight weeks.

Clients may include those with operational stress injuries such as anxiety disorders, depression or addiction.

When Joanne Ouetier's husband came home from peacekeeping missions, the slightest noise would set him off, she recalled.

Fears of suicide

It was so hard on the family that Ouetier thought of leaving him. She said she feared he might take his own life, as Pte. Frederic Couture did less than a year after his foot was blown off by a mine near Kandahar in late 2006.

"When he was in a small corner, crying like a baby — when you saw him, a big guy — it's hard," Ouetier said.

He ended up at the veterans' hospital in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, where eight weeks of medication and therapy allowed him to start healing, Ouetier said, adding this kind of clinic may have helped to save Couture.

But the facility will only help if soldiers are willing to admit they have a problem, said Brig.-Gen. Hillary Jaeger,  surgeon general of the Canadian Forces.

By fall 2009, Veterans Affairs plans to have a national network of 10 operational stress injury clinics, which will complement the five operational trauma and stress support centres operated by the Department of National Defence.

Veterans Affairs will start accepting referrals for the new clinics in June.