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Military commander talks mental health

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Retired Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire shares his experiences with Oakville crowd

Post by Guest on Thu 01 Jun 2017, 07:37

Retired Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire shares his experiences with Oakville crowd

By Marta Marychuk May 30, 2017

Former Canadian Armed Forces Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire was at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital as part of Rotary Club of Oakville’s annual speaker series. - Graham Paine/Metroland

Retired Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire called upon Canadians to show our soldiers the dignity, respect and care they deserve, so they don’t have to fight again to live decently in our country.

Dallaire, a well-known human rights activist, United Nations (UN) adviser, bestselling author and former senator, spoke before a capacity audience on Monday, May 29 at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital (OTMH).

Dallaire, who talked about Canada’s role as a nation, mental health and invisible wounds, was the second in the Rotary Club of Oakville’s annual speaker series.

Dallaire served in North America, Europe and Africa, rising in rank from army cadet in 1960 to lieutenant general in 1998. He is best known as the force commander of the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda prior to and during the 1994 genocide.

Dallaire revealed that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 1997, as a result of his mission in Rwanda, helping to remove the stigma of the disorder in military veterans and other first responders.

Although the revelation resulted in Dallaire being medically released from the Canadian army in 2000, he has been an advocate of other veterans struggling with PTSD.

His personal battle with PTSD is the subject of his memoir, Waiting for First Light: My Ongoing Battle with PTSD.

“Death has no noise, but it’s deafening,” said Dallaire, describing the aftermath of a village in Rwanda after its residents were slaughtered and buildings burned to the ground.

“The destruction was irreparable,” he added. The women were raped and mutilated — some were barely alive.

At times, the soft-spoken Dallaire joked with the audience about his background — growing up in Canada, the son of a Canadian army sergeant and a Dutch war bride — and his experiences with Americans, particularly one resident who asked Dallaire during a graduation ceremony whether Canadians had cable TV.


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Military commander talks mental health

Post by Guest on Wed 17 May 2017, 07:31

Military commander talks mental health

Dallaire praises UOIT during talk at mental health forum

May 17, 2017

Lt. General Romeo Dallaire speaks to the Futures Forum at UOIT. The retired Canadian and United Nations general was a keynote speaker for the event that focused on dealing with mental health issues. Dallaire drew heavily from his past work with the UN, where he led the detachment that attempted to halt the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the experiences from which left him suffering from PTSD. (Photo by Joel Wittnebel).

By Joel Wittnebel

Delivering a powerful keynote speech during UOIT’s latest Futures Forum, Lt. General Romeo Dallaire praised the institution’s efforts to raise further awareness around mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Dallaire delivered his address during the school’s forum centred on the “future of community mental health and wellness.” The full-day event focused on delving into discussions around what the institution is doing to address the issues of mental health.

Speaking to a full room at the institute’s downtown location, Dallaire shared chilling stories of his time in Rwanda, where he served as Force Commander for the United Nations peacekeeping detachment that attempted to halt the genocide that took nearly 800,000 lives in a short 100 days in 1994. The details of his experience are shared in his book Shake Hands with the Devil. His actions in Rwanda are credited with saving over 32,000 lives.

However, his experiences left him with PTSD, leading him to attempt suicide on four different occasions upon his return to Canada.

Dallaire is now one of the strongest advocates for mental health awareness for veterans and breaking the stigma that the affliction is one of the weak.

He says things have come a long way since he returned from the horrors in Rwanda.

“What we were doing then, we were very much still ad hocking and experimenting,” he tells The Oshawa Express.

“Now we’ve built more depth, there’s been more effort and research, there’s been more willingness to apply it and what we’ve really been able to crack is the stigma code.”

For those suffering, whether it’s veterans, first responders, police or anyone in the community that has undergone a traumatic experience, Dallaire says there are a trio of steps to take to help alleviate the symptoms of PTSD.

“It’s like a cancer, it keeps growing inside,” he says.

In order to ease the pain, Dallaire says people need to accept professional help, accept medications if they’re required and, most importantly, make sure to have significant peer support while going through the process.

“Without the peer support, you feel abandoned between the sessions, and that’s the worst thing because of the abandonment and feeling alone and you’re not talking to anybody, it’s the best way to sort of self-destruct yourself.”

It’s through these steps that sufferers can build a “mental prosthesis” to help support themselves, he says.

With that said, he recognized the importance of such forums and discussions as those being held by UOIT in moving the yardstick forward in terms of awareness and finding solutions.

“You’re challenging it, you’re innovating, you’re connecting with human beings,” he told those in attendance.

“This is not just anecdotal – you need some hard data to be able to bring some great new solutions.”


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