Reading Time: 4 Minutes
DR. JOHN WHALEN
John Whelan, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who has spent a 20-year career working with serving and retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces. He served in the RCN for nearly nine years during the Cold War years before leaving to attend university. Dr. Whelan completed his dissertation on treatment outcomes for military members with Substance abuse and mental health issues and he went on to serve as clinical director for the CAF addiction treatment programs. In 2004, he established a private clinic for the treatment of complex military PTSD and developed a group therapy program for veterans to help foster peer support networks. He continues to conduct outcome-focussed clinical research, Advocacy and outreach work, and he is active in several veterans organizations.
GOING CRAZY IN THE GREEN MACHINE
Many Canadians are vaguely aware of the military’s steady involvement in overseas operations over the past 20 years. For many soldiers, however, memories of these places torment them daily. They are haunted; they are changed from who they were as proud men and women. How do we support these soldiers to find their way back home? The story of Master corporal Billy Reardon is an intimate portrayal of his journey from young man to mentally wounded military veteran. We see the world through his eyes as the toll of his deployments mount and as he struggles within the mental health system. We also see him find recovery and reconnection to the military brotherhood along with other veterans. Billy’s story raises questions about the roles of front-line leadership and challenges health providers to develop an intimate understanding of military culture as a prerequisite to assisting traumatized veterans and their families.
“A must read for NCOs and senior staff to help them understand what my brothers-in-arms are going through” (Veteran, Canadian soldier).
“This story is real! It is engaging and while average Canadians may think that these things do not happen but I know that they do happen.” (RCAF, Captian, retired).
GHOST IN THE RANKS
Operational Stress Injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are among the possible consequences facing members of the Canadian military. Unlike the potential physical consequences of dangerous deployments, psychological injuries are not always apparent. Military members are taught a mental Skillset to help them manage their internal emotional worlds allowing them to do extraordinary things. Unfortunately, while ingrained military training prepares our men and women for action as capable soldiers, this same training may also require them to trade aspects of their humanness—sowing the seeds for lingering mental distress. As a result, those most affected are left in a limbo, disconnected from their military roles and yet unable to relate to their former civilian lives. They become ghosts of their former selves, haunting the ranks until, more often than not, they find themselves on the outside looking in, with unacknowledged scars, anger, and regret. We ask a great deal of our men and Women in Uniform; if a shift in culture can help members of our military with mental distress, we owe it to them to make that shift possible.
“Dr. Whelan offers an open and straightforward message to the men and women who serve and Canadian society about the lingering effects of an acquired military identity on mental health struggles… [he] has captured the very fabric of the men and women who serve. A must read!”
— Michael Hobson, Veteran and R2MR Mental Health Educator
John J. Whelan photo
A clinical psychologist, John Whelan has spent his career working with serving and retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces. A veteran himself, Whelan spent nine years in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Cold War. In 2004, he established a private clinic for the treatment of complex military PTSD and developed a group therapy program for veterans to help foster peer support networks. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax where he continues his research on military and veteran issues. His previous book, Going Crazy in the Green Machine, was published by FriesenPress in 2014.