Canada needs to find a way to remember soldiers who committed suicide: Veterans

"It's not like having a broken foot or a missing leg. The psychological injuries may present themselves years later."

Study by military's top doctor shows correlation between service in Afghanistan and soldier suicide rates

Young veterans Eric Washburn and Rory James Blaisdell speak to CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty about the realities of coming home after serving in Afghanistan. 11:06

A pair of Concordia students who served with the Canadian military say better co-ordination of local, provincial and federal services for soldiers returning home would go a long way in helping to catch people suffering from the psychological aftermath of war.

Eric Washburn and Rory James Blaisdell of the Concordia Veterans' Association spoke to CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty on Remembrance Day — a day after the release of a report by the Canadian military's top doctor that service in Afghanistan is associated with an elevated risk of suicide.

Washburn said that many soldiers are screened upon returning home, and that the initial services are fairly comprehensive.

However, he said, psychological distress may not be apparent to anyone — including the soldier himself or herself — until much later. 

"It's not like having a broken foot or a missing leg. The psychological injuries may present themselves years later," he said.

The delay in the development of symptoms can aggravate a further delay in accessing help. 

"Part of the problem is things aren't aggregated in one central location so there may be a service for you, there may be a program that's offered but you may not know about it," Blaisdell said.

The numbers speak for themselves: 158 Canadian Forces personnel died in Afghanistan — and 59 additional soldiers killed themselves upon coming home.

Washburn and Blaisdell said there needs to be a mechanism to remember those who die of psychological injuries, just as we remember those who have died of physical ones.

The Book of Remembrance does not record soldiers' deaths at home once they leave the battlefield.

Watch the video for more from Washburn and Blaisdell's Daybreak interview at the top of the page.


  • An earlier version of this story stated that both Rory James Blaisdell and Eric Washburn served in Afghanistan. In fact, Blaisdell served in the Royal Canadian Navy but was never deployed to Afghanistan.
    Nov 13, 2015 1:57 PM ET


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