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CanadaToronto war veteran calls on Ottawa to do more for soldiers with PTSD

21:53  08 november  2018
21:53  08 november  2018 Source:   thestar.com

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Toronto war veteran calls on Ottawa to do more for soldiers with PTSD © Provided by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited Makuch goes through his assortment of army uniforms in his home in the Beach. Toronto war veteran calls on Ottawa to do more for soldiers with PTSD © Provided by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited Canadian Army veteran Joshua Makuch inside his home in the Beach. Makuch served the country for nine years, which included a combat tour as a platoon commander in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

War veteran Josh Makuch experienced first hand the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – a mental health problem caused by exposure to traumatic events.

Having served as a rifle platoon commander fighting the Taliban counterinsurgency in Kandahar, Afghanistan, from early April to November 2009, Makuch struggled to adjust to life in the city upon his return from combat.

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“Simple things set you off … like walking around in the St. Lawrence market on a Saturday. (It) was something I could not do for three months after I got back because all I’m doing is watching people’s hands,” the Beach resident said.

He dealt with his bout of PTSD “relatively well,” thanks to support from his close circle, but there are many who have to endure the trauma longer – possibly for life.

This is where he believes the military should do more beyond offering a few days of “decompression” outside Canada prior to returning home to “blow off steam” and attend mental health seminars, as opposed to providing any meaningful follow-through.

“I have friends who committed suicide, I have friends who didn’t get that phone call from the (military) institution to check in on them,” the former infantry officer said.

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The onus shouldn’t be on the veterans to seek out help or on people around them – who are not professionals – to be observing the veterans and reporting their findings to someone, he said.

“That just shows that it’s a failure of the system,” Makuch said.

Mike Turner, veterans’ service officer with the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 11 at Dawes Road and Danforth Avenue, said they are seeing “a lot of post-traumatic stress symptoms” among Afghanistan veterans.

The legion – as a whole – is doing its part by setting up the Operational Section Injury (OSI) section.

“It is a group of deputies that support veterans … where all the deputies themselves are veterans,” Turner said. “So it’s one-on-one peer support, it’s mental health first aid, helping the veterans as they transition into civilian life, as well as finding resources and assisting them through either their PTSD or any physical concerns.”

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At a branch level, the legion offers emergency support for veterans in need.

“We refer them to support structures that are available out there and offer financial assistance,” he said.

Makuch left the armed forces in 2012 and worked as a business consultant after receiving his MBA degree from Ryerson University. Recently, he came third in the municipal election race in Ward 19 Beaches – East York.

Reflecting back on his time in the war, Remembrance Day has taken a new meaning for him in the last few years because he has “something very tangible to tie it back to.”

He remembers one of his platoon members who died in a bomb blast.

“That’s the person I think about on Remembrance Day. I still think about his parents who still live in New Brunswick,” Makuch said.

Bambang Sadewo is a reporter with toronto.com and Metroland Media Toronto. Email: [email protected]

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