02/24/2015 03:15 EST | Updated 04/26/2015 05:59 EDT

Roméo Dallaire Calls For Better Support For Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Retired Lieutenant General and former Senator Roméo Dallaire says Veterans Affairs Canada isn't coming close to meeting the needs of veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.

Dallaire, who has been outspoken about his own struggles with PTSD, is in Vancouver as the keynote speaker of a Canadian Mental Health Association conference that will focus on hearing from people who work on the front lines in jobs where post traumatic stress disorder is too common.

"I was asked by a colleague once — he said, 'How do you ultimately handle it after you've stopped trying to kill yourself?'" Dallaire told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

"I simply said, 'When you're busy and working hard, it hurts less.' You cope by fighting it, by giving and putting out, and sometimes that does wear you down."

Dallaire said he also sees peer support as key to getting through PTSD.

Dallaire led the 1994 UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda and witnessed the genocide of hundreds of thousands of people. 

"I am in my 16th year of therapy. I take 9 pills a day and had to increase recently with the 20th anniversary," he said.

"The 20th anniversary was coupled also with an increase in suicides in the forces of guys and girls who have served overseas."

'I can hear them screaming'

He said because of his PTSD, he still sees news about conflict around the world differently than others.

"What's going on in Iraq, in Syria, what's going on in the Congo — it's not a news item for me. I can hear them screaming. I can hear them screaming. I can hear them hurting. I can hear the fighting. I can smell it."

Dallaire said support has increased extensively since he returned from Rwanda in the 1990s, but said there still hasn't been enough investment in veterans' mental health.

"It's interesting that we'll pour tens of millions of dollars equipping those troops, training them. We pour God knows how many billions using them and effectively giving them the capabilities of fighting the fight as we want them to do.

"We bring them home we do the maintenance massively on hundreds of millions of dollars on the equipment, but we become real cheap-os when it comes time to take care of them and their families."

To hear the full interview with Roméo Dallaire, click the audio labelled: Roméo Dallaire calls for better PTSD support for veterans.


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