New Brunswick

Fredericton vet says his PTSD requires discipline to keep under control

A Fredericton veteran is speaking out about his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder after the Canadian Forces released suicide numbers last week.

Fred Doucette developed PTSD while serving in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war

“My wife said one morning, ‘Fred, you got to get help.’ I said ‘OK,’ and I went,” says Fred Doucette. (Facebook)

A Fredericton veteran is speaking out about his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder after the Canadian Forces released suicide totals for military members in 2015 last week.

Fred Doucette served in Sarajevo as a United Nations peacekeeper during the Bosnian war in the mid-1990s. 

He still suffers from PTSD and compares it to other long-term or chronic ailments that require a disciplined routine to keep under control.

"I say it's like diabetes," Doucette said in an interview. "You take the meds, you get your insulin, you eat healthily and exercise, you keep diabetes under control. It's the same thing with this type of injury."

Last week, the Canadian Forces reported that 18 military members committed suicide in 2015.

Although the number was not statistically higher than the civilian population, the military said the rate did rise for those serving in the army as opposed to the navy or air force. The report also found suicide risk greater for those who were deployed overseas. 

Doucette, who lost a colleague to suicide, said there have been changes for the better in how the military deals with mental health. 

"The way the military has dealt with it has been almost like a shameful thing," said Doucette.

"They're treating them a lot better than they used to."

Doucette said when he came back from the former Yugoslavia, he was showing symptoms of PTSD. He eventually noticed the symptoms himself, but he wasn't the first.

"My wife noticed before anything," he said.

"My wife said one morning, 'Fred, you got to get help.' I said, 'OK,' and I went."

Different from other wounds

Doucette said mental illness, especially PTSD, needs to be treated differently from other wartime wounds because the onset and treatment times can't be predicted.

"Look at some of the [Second World War] vets, when they got in their eighties, they started to have these memories coming out," said Doucette.

Another issue that makes PTSD harder to deal with in the military is its complexity. Often there isn't just one incident that causes PTSD but a multitude of incidents.

"I was talking with a psychologist once and she said, 'You know, Fred, I wish somebody came through the door with [just] one thing, [like] his friend got killed beside him.' She said, 'It doesn't work that way.'"

Haunted by kids in war zones

One area where Doucette continues to struggle is with some interactions with children. He said he's seen kids in war zones and has an overwhelming need to protect them.

This has led to some painful situations.

"It was hard to differentiate between a kid in pain and a kid just [upset] because he went to Toys 'R' Us and he was crying and acting up. ... Still, I have to be on guard for it."​

With files from Information Morning Fredericton