PMFRC Fireside Chat highlights mental health,
Grn Petawawa’s Family Violence Advisory Team

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday February 11, 2021


The Petawawa Military Family Resource Centre (PMFRC) understands the unique stressors that Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and their loved ones can experience.

As part of the Bell Let’s Talk initiative, the PMFRC focused its Jan. 27 Wednesday Fireside Chat on the subject of mental illness with a spotlight on the Garrison Petawawa’s Family Violence Advisory Team (FVAT). 

“Mental health influences how we think, how we feel and how we behave in our everyday life,” said Lieutenant Ashley Jones, acting psychosocial team lead at Warrior Support and Acting Chairperson of the FVAT.

“Your mental health plays an important role in your relationships,” she added, urging those who are struggling to reach out to someone.

FVAT was first created to address family violence issues, which have increased in recent months as a result of families having to stay at home and self-isolate in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The confidential group brings together experts and advisors to help the Chain of Command better understand family violence while also providing help to those experiencing it.

But it isn’t just about family violence.

“Although we talk about family violence, and that’s in the title, it really is about healthy relationships,” said FVAT Champion Lieutenant-Colonel (LCol) Iain Clark, 4th Canadian Division Support Base Petawawa Personnel Services Commanding Officer. “We talk about the spectrum. Although, we can certainly help when it’s gotten really, really bad. We can also help if things are just trending in a bad way. There are some great tools out there and resources.”

They offer help for other circumstances, though other organizations may be better suited to a family’s need.

During the Fireside Chat, local organizations were invited to discuss their programs and services as the PMFRC and FVAT firmly believe in partnerships. 

They included Personnel Support Programs (PSP), the Women’s Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County (WSAC) and Family and Children’s Services of Renfrew County (FCS) as well as Garrison Petawawa itself.

“All MFRCs work together in the community to raise awareness about the unique stressors that military families and their members deal with and our collective impact really is significant,” said PMFRC Executive Director Claudia Beswick. “And it really identifies what the stressors and barriers are that they are dealing with on an ongoing basis.”

Their shared values and mission allows them to work in tandem to better serve the military community at large. 

The past year has been difficult for many people. Stressors accumulate when things are uncertain, and lockdowns have amplified the challenges faced by families and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members. 

“The effect of this pandemic on people’s mental health has been significant, to say the least,” said PSP Health Promotion Specialist, Kevin Strachan

These challenges may not be clear, and getting mental health help may look like a complicated maze.

Chris Quigley, Crisis Intervention Coordinator at the PMFRC, invites those who may be unsure of what help they require to contact her directly. It is also beneficial for those who do not want to go through a military-run program.

She and her team can provide mental health help, providing therapy as well as tools and support. She also helps direct people in crisis to the correct organization, whether that’s the FCS, the WSAC or something completely different.

When people find themselves in difficult situations, they often feel alone. Having somebody like Quigley to guide them makes a huge difference as she knows the system and its people.

“Often people refer to me as the human phonebook because I am able to navigate where they need to go without getting frustrated,” said Quigley.

Those struggling with mental illness due to sexual assault should reach out to the WSAC directly. Despite its name, the organization offers programs for men and women who have undergone trauma. And it doesn’t have to be recent. Many of the cases they deal with occurred years ago. 

“One key piece is our 24/7 crisis line, which is 1-800-663-3060,” said Jancy Brown, WSAC Communications Coordinator. “You give us a call and we are there for you. Whether it is a referral or you just want someone to talk to or you can’t get to sleep in the middle of the night because of what happened. We are just there for you.”

Their Rapid Access Program (RAP) has been designed for military members, veterans and their families to access and receive tailored help. This is completely anonymous and separate from a CAF member’s Chain of Command.

Getting help for mental health when it is still in the early stages is paramount to prevent a crisis and to keep families together and safe.

Though it is primarily a children’s aid group, FCS also helps families before they reach the boiling point.

“We help families resolve and prevent the situation that led them becoming involved with our agency,” said Paul Henry, FCS Intake and Assessment. 

“The notion of reaching out for help is seen as a strength, not a weakness” he added.

To contact the Family Violence Advisory Team, please call 613-687-5511 ext. 4600.