‘It’s a fail­ure of the sys­tem’

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

StarMetro Toronto - - FRONT PAGE - Bam­bang Sadewo

Be­cause of PTSD, war vet­eran Josh Makuch has dif­fi­culty do­ing sim­ple things like walk­ing through a crowded St. Lawrence mar­ket. Now, he’s call­ing on Ot­tawa to do more for sol­diers

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 counter-in­sur­gency in Kan­da­har, Afghanistan, from early April to Novem­ber 2009, Makuch strug­gled to ad­just to life in the city upon his re­turn from com­bat.

“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 fol­lowthrough. “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.

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.”

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.

“SIM­PLE THINGS SET YOU OFF … LIKE WALK­ING AROUND IN THE ST. LAWRENCE MAR­KET.”

Josh Makuch

JUSTIN GREAVES/METROLAND

Cana­dian Army vet­eran Josh Makuch served the coun­try for nine years, which in­cluded a com­bat tour as a pla­toon com­man­der in Kan­da­har, Afghanistan.

JUSTIN GREAVES/METROLAND

Cana­dian Army vet­eran Josh Makuch out­side his home in the Beach. Makuch served the coun­try for nine years, which in­cluded a com­bat tour as a pla­toon com­man­der in Kan­da­har, Afghanistan.

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