Petty Officer grateful for CAF support in dealing with mental illness

Petty Officer 2nd Class Chevonne Fisher holds up her sign for Bell Let’s Talk
Petty Officer 2nd Class Chevonne Fisher holds up her sign for Bell Let’s Talk. Photo: Mona Ghiz, MARLANT PA

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Life has not always been easy for Petty Officer 2nd Class Chevonne Fisher, but she counts herself lucky in many ways.

A Financial Services Administrator in the Comptroller’s office at CFB Halifax, her first brush with mental illness came in 1991 when she was a teenager and one of her friends was killed in a car accident. Her parents encouraged her to speak with a professional and she found it to be a positive experience.

Fast forward to 2001 when her first child was born and she began to suffer from postpartum depression. Based on her past experience, she looked for help within the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) system and once again received the support she needed.

“I sought help through Stadacona Mental Health services (at CFB Halifax) with great success,” she says.

Three years later, returning from maternity leave after the birth of her second child, she had a problem at work that caused her distress. Rather than seeking help right away this time, however, she let it fester. Finally, her supervisor urged her to get help.

“I should have known; if I had just asked for help at the beginning it would have been better,” she says. “I don’t know why I didn’t. But getting help through the military system worked again and I was able to get better.”

Unfortunately, the biggest test to her psychological well-being was still to come.

In 2015 she was hit with the unexpected ending of her 20-year marriage and the news that her teenage daughter suffered from several mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.

“I am a very family-oriented person and this was just devastating,” she recalls. “As a mother I felt totally helpless. I couldn’t help her, or myself, and I had to reach out for help again.”

Despite the difficulties that have repeatedly come her way, PO2 Fisher maintains that she is lucky to have so much care and support from her supervisors, co-workers and CAF mental health services.

“I have been supported fully by the CAF with work absences due to appointments or my daughter’s difficult days, and I am able to leave work at a moment’s notice. I was also able to remain in Halifax and not be posted so that my daughter could continue her treatment.”

Over 27 years in uniform, she is grateful that there is increasing understanding about mental illness.

“It’s talked about a lot now,” she says, “even in front of subordinates. I can look out for my own people, recognize what might be a problem, and make sure they get the help they need.”

She adds there are many different ways for members to reach out when they’re ready, including their chain of command, doctors, padres and the local Military Family Resource Centre.

“The important thing is to talk to someone about it, it doesn’t matter who it is.”

Career courses such as those dealing with addictions, substance abuse and domestic violence issues have also assisted PO2 Fisher in dealing with her team.

She continues to see a therapist regularly for depression, and knows that her psychological well-being will always be a work in progress.

Part of helping herself is helping others, and she participated in in the National CAF Bell Let’s Talk panel at CFB Halifax on January 30, 2019. Panel members discussed their mental health issues, how they cope with them, and the resources available to improve their well-being.

“There is so much help out there now, and I am the first one to stand up and talk about it,” she says. “I am extremely thankful for the openness and support of the CAF and our supervisors within. It provides vital training to our leadership so they can now recognize mental illness and support members without judgement.”

For more information on CAF mental health resources, visit the Mental Health Resources web page.

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