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Surgeon General Message: Mental Health Week 2024 – Healing with Compassion: a delicate balance for healthcare practitioners

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May 7, 2024 – Defence Stories

Message from the Surgeon General


This year’s Mental Health Week theme is Healing with compassion,” encouraging Canadians to explore how compassion connects us all, as a feeling that is intrinsic to our humanity and our mental health.

In their lifetime, many Canadians will struggle with their mental health; each of us has different stressors, triggers, and circumstances that can affect our mental health and cause difficulty in our everyday lives. Because of this, we also have different coping strategies during challenging times. If your mental health journey looks different from those around you, that’s normal. Practise mindfulness by taking the time to pay attention to your mind and body, and noting what makes you feel lighter, happier, and supported – and what causes you distress.


Close-up image of two people holding hands while one lays in a hospital bed.

Once we address this, it becomes easier to then help those around us. For our healers within Canadian Forces Health Services, Healing with compassion is a crucial component of the health care we provide to Canadian Armed Forces members, but it is a delicate balance to maintain. The pressure of caring for – and empathizing with – patients can sometimes become overwhelming. This is called compassion fatigue. Warning signs include but are not limited to: hypersensitivity and feelings of helplessness when hearing of others’ suffering, limited tolerance for stress, relationship conflicts, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, self isolation and withdrawal, and substance use. It is important for anyone struggling with compassion fatigue to acknowledge the issue and find coping mechanisms that alleviate the stress, like recognizing the symptoms and addressing them immediately, setting boundaries that protect yourself, and building a support system.

Your mental health will evolve continuously for the rest of your life – prioritizing self-care and compassion for yourself and others will help keep the highs and lows at a manageable level. If you continue to struggle, we are here for you.

For more information on mental health resources and programs within the CAF, please visit Mental health in the Canadian Armed Forces (accessible only on the National Defence network) or Canadian Armed Forces Mental Health Services.

Merci, Thank you, Meegwetch

Major-General Scott Malcolm
Canadian Armed Forces Surgeon General


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