Health

Life-affirming support
Health

Life-affirming support

Friends and communities are helping prevent veterans’ suicides When Joe Rustenburg came back from war, he wanted to shut out the world. He had seen buddies maimed and killed during tours with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2008. And he’d been wounded in the head by shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade explosion.  He left the military in 2011 with post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury, moved to a small community in Saskatchewan, and hunkered down. “I wanted to get as far away from the military and other people as I could get,” he said. Each year up to 10,000 members leave the Canadian Armed Forces, some with suicide on their minds, including Rustenburg, who attempted it twice—in 2009 and 2010. The CAF’s Life After Serv...
MILITARY HEALTH MATTERS: Checking on your buddies
Military Health Matters

MILITARY HEALTH MATTERS: Checking on your buddies

When this column was written, the world was still in lockdown, practising social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine. Who knows when social distancing can end, or whether we’ll be in and out of lockdown a number of times as the virus peaks and wanes and peaks again. These measures are tough enough on those who are physically and mentally hale and healthy, but they can be even harder on vulnerable veterans and add to the pressures on their families and caregivers. Isolation leads to loneliness, which can lead to major depression, which is implicated in the development of a host of health effects including increased risks of heart attack, insomnia, increased pain sensitivity, weakened immune system and suicidal thoughts and behaviour. “No one stands on a roof and says, ‘I’m lonely...
Music soothes the injured brain
Military Health Matters

Music soothes the injured brain

In treating Canadian soldiers returning from the First World War with psychological wounds, British musician Margaret Anderton discovered music does indeed have “charms to soothe the savage breast.” “Wood instruments,” she observed, “are particularly potent for a certain kind of war-neurosis because of their penetrating, sustained tone.” Anderton went on to teach the first music therapy course at Columbia University. But neither she, nor the poet William Congreve who coined the phrase two centuries earlier, would have had any idea that such soothing sounds are more than music to the ears. Music can help remodel an injured brain. Modern scanning technology that reveals the inner workings of the brain has provided evidence of the effectiveness of music therapy. It is now used widely in ...
Ten years of research yields results
Military Health Matters

Ten years of research yields results

The 10th anniversary of the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research forum provides an opportunity to look back—and to look forward. A decade ago, nobody had yet counted the number of homeless veterans or veterans’ suicides in Canada; today there are robust programs tackling both—and involving the whole of society, including government departments, civilian agencies and veterans’ advocacy organizations such as The Royal Canadian Legion. Similar leaps in knowledge have been made on every front, from diagnosis to treatment to prevention, for serving members of the military, veterans, RCMP and their families.  CIMVHR has grown into a network of 1,700 researchers at dozens of universities, research institutes and government departments, tackling subjects massive and mund...
Docbots and drones
Military Health Matters

Docbots and drones

Military medics used to paint their helmets or wear armbands with red crosses to make themselves more visible, signalling to the enemy that they, and the soldiers they cared for, were not combatants. In a once widely respected humanitarian rule of war, they were not deliberately targeted. But they can no longer count on such principled behaviour. Today terrorists target medics as well as the wounded men and women they try to help. Wounded soldiers’ best chance at survival comes with aid in the first 30 minutes. And if they can be evacuated to a field hospital within 60 minutes, a period known as the golden hour, their chances of survival rise to as much as 97 per cent. But too often, under fire, it’s humanly impossible for help to arrive in time; nearly all Western military personnel ...
Exercise eases traumatic brain injury
Military Health Matters

Exercise eases traumatic brain injury

It may be small, but a study of military traumatic brain injury (TBI) and exercise will produce one piece of a puzzle whose long-term effects we have only begun to understand. University of Ottawa researchers are searching for how best to treat the enigmatic injury. As of mid-July, they were looking for four pairs of subjects: Ottawa-area veterans or serving members who have had a moderate to severe TBI (commonly called a concussion) to participate in a home-based exercise program over a period of about four months; each with a study partner, such as a spouse, friend or caregiver. “We want to investigate the use of remote supervision for a home-based exercise program,” said principal investigator Jennifer O’Neil (joneil@uottawa.ca). Her interest is in increasing accessibility of reh...
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