Last winter, the federal government said it was finally in the process of hiring up to 54 mental health specialists for the military to satisfy a need identified years ago. Asked to assess how Ottawa is currently handling veterans’ issues, Whelan said there are positive signs but the jury’s still out. “I’m waiting like everyone else” for marked improvements, he said. What is clear, Whalen said, is that Veterans Affairs “was really caught off guard” by the wave of younger vets and military members requiring assistance. He said the department was focusing on Second World War veterans and didn’t see this next generation coming. After working in the addiction treatment for the Canadian military, Whelan about a decade ago set up a private clinic to help those with PTSD. He’s developed a group therapy program to help promote peer-support networks.
Whalen left the navy in 1985. Originally from Newfoundland, he heads a psychological services office in Halifax’s Clayton Park staffed by him and other psychologists. In the last line of the book’s epilogue, Whelan appeals to men and women who served, and who might be struggling mentally, to seek a sounding board. It’s a crucial part of the book’s theme: If you, like many people, have a psychological wound, don’t ignore it or place it at the back of your mind. “For those who may be living the life of quiet desperation, talk to someone, talk to anyone,” Whalen says in his postscript.