I think there's a huge opportunity. Thank you for the opportunity to speak about this. It's something that I'm quite passionate about. I think there are huge opportunities to think outside the box. I think there are so many elements to the mental health issue that I can't put a bow around them and wrap them up, but ensuring that there's medical support for serving and released members is critical. It's easier when people are within the system than relying on the provincial health system. That's something we're looking at with Veterans Affairs and that team.
The critical element, and it doesn't matter whether you're a civilian or a kid in high school or a serving member of the armed forces, is reducing the stigma around having the discussion about how you're feeling. Mental health illnesses are no different from physical illnesses. We have to have that conversation with people.
I'm a passionate advocate for youth mental health in my private time. I support the Do It For Daron initiative. Luke Richardson was my daughter's hockey coach, so I've seen the devastation and the courage of a family affected by suicide. I think what they have highlighted in terms of reducing stigma—having conversations, giving people a safe space to express how they're feeling—is really critical. Then in the workplace, it's about teaching managers, supervisors, and commanding officers—again, it doesn't matter whether they are civilian or military—how to respond to that. Give people tools.
If somebody comes to work with a broken leg, we know how to deal with them. If somebody comes to work with a sore back and can't lift that day, we know how to deal with them. If somebody comes to work feeling depressed or having problems with anxiety or suicidal thoughts, we don't know how to deal with that because we haven't equipped our managers broadly enough.
I've been briefed by the team of very energetic people looking at mental health within the Department of National Defence. It's a tripartite approach. We have a bargaining agent lead, which I think is critical. We have a military lead, and we have a civilian senior manager lead—who would be me. We're not thinking inside the box. We will do anything we can to have this conversation. There are a lot of campaigns out there. Bell Let's Talk is one of them. CAF was very engaged with that last year. But there are other things out there, and it doesn't matter whether it's national or small, such as in a very small work group. Anything that gives people the opportunity to say, “I have a problem and here's how we're going to deal with it in the workspace”, is important.
There isn't a pill and there isn't one solution that's going to work for everybody. So it's about understanding the range of problems and giving managers, uniformed or civilian, the knowledge, the training, the understanding, the compassion, all of those things, to deal with the problem.