22 Wing/CFB North Bay supports military members struggling with mental health

On the day of mental health awareness, the military team at 22 Wing/Canadian Forces Base North Bay raised the Bell Let’s Talk flag to the blowing wind.

“Because of the nature of the job of employment here of supporting the NORAD mission, it’s a 24/7 operation and that’s hard sometimes on people,” said Wing Commander Col. Richard Jolette.

This is the sixth year that 22 Wing/CFB held an event in support of Bell Let’s Talk Day.

“If we want to be operational and ready and to be able to perform properly, then we need to be ready both physically and mentally,” said Didier Pignatel, the base’s chief warrant officer.

Because of the role the Canadian Armed Forces plays in protecting Canadian air space, commanding officers are acknowledging the fact servicemen and women often miss out on time with family, friends or doing hobbies. This can take a toll.

Jolette recalls a recent story of an individual who was struggling with their mental health over the Christmas holidays. The Armed Forces was able to get them the help they needed.

“We had another one of our teammates spend almost every day during the Christmas break with that member to help them through that time of need,” he said.

Jolette is highlighting the health care services available on the base for all crew members. That includes the 31st Health Services Centre, which is fully equipped with a team of doctors, nurses, social workers and professionals that work exclusively in mental health.

22 Wing/CFB also runs what’s called the Sentinel program. Volunteers who are trained by the chaplain’s office identify symptoms and signs of distress in other team members and can help them find the right support services they need.

“As helping professionals, we can’t be everywhere at all times,” said chaplain Capt. Henry Hoy.

“The intent is to promote the awareness of the available resources and they serve as a preventative tool on the wing.”

Jolette said the chain of command at 22 Wing/CFB plays a key role to make sure everyone on base is healthy and happy when coming into work and surveying Canada’s skies.

“If we don’t have the people to do the job, then the job doesn’t get done and the NORAD mission we support here is a no-fail mission. So we need to have the people ready to do that job,” he said.

The base is planning a mental health expo Feb. 22 with speakers, information and resources available for anyone on base who might be facing personal struggles.