Recognizing mental illness the first step to getting better

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Navy News / January 29, 2019

For many years Corporal Travis Weir refused to admit he had a problem.

Diagnosed with depression when he was in his late teens, it wasn’t until he was on the verge of losing his family and career in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) that he finally realized what was at stake.

A Medical Technician with 12 years of service, Cpl Weir is currently serving aboard Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Montréal in Halifax.

But it was during his time at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Edmonton six years ago that he hit rock bottom.

“I went completely off track,” he says. “I had terrible anxiety and depression, and was suffering from alcohol addiction. People tried to help me, but I wouldn’t accept it. I wanted to do it on my own.”

A father of two children at the time, Cpl Weir struggled to find his way.

“I knew that I had to truly accept what was happening to me and seek help, or I would lose everything.”

Cpl Weir spent time at a rehab facility in Nanaimo, B.C., with the full support of his chain of command, which had urged him to get the help he so desperately needed.

Following rehab, he and his partner, who is also in the military, were posted to his partner’s home town of Halifax so she could be closer to her family support network.

“It took me many years to accept my issues, and I still work on them every day. Part of my job as a Medical Technician on the ship is helping other people, and I find they can relate to me more easily when I tell them what I’ve been through.”

Another step forward in Cpl Weir’s recovery will be taking part in the National CAF Bell Let’s Talk panel at CFB Halifax on January 30, 2019. (The event will be live-streamed on the CAF Facebook page.)  Panel members will discuss their mental health issues, how they cope with them, and the resources available to improve their psychological well-being.

“I hope that someone who hears my story will engage earlier and take the first steps in admitting they have a problem and getting help. I lost almost everything and it has been a struggle to come out the other side,” says Cpl Weir.

He says the military is getting better at dealing with those members who have mental health concerns. Four years ago he was told he was “high risk” and would be medically released. He fought the decision and had it overturned. Nowadays, he explains, those who need help can get it without fear of career implications.

“It used to be so many people were worried about their mental health issues affecting career advancement and promotions,” Cpl Weir explains. “That’s changing and it’s such a great thing. People can get the help they need and don’t have to be concerned about the repercussions of coming forward.”

Cpl Weir takes things one day at a time, and knows that getting and staying better will be a lifelong process. He and his partner have recently had another baby and plan to get married this summer.

“If I didn’t have them my world would be destroyed. They remind me each and every day of why I had to get help.”

For more information on CAF mental health resources, visit:

http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/caf-community-health-services/mental-health-resources.page