As Veterans Affairs Canada struggles to meet growing demands for mental health services for veterans and their families, a new clinic on Montreal’s South Shore is offering some much needed help to those who served in the military.

The clinic, which is housed in a Longueuil office building, is a joint effort by the federal Veterans Affairs and Quebec’s health ministry.

“It’s something that’s near and dear to me,” said Sherry Romanado, who is the parliamentary secretary to the minister of veteran’s affairs. “I have a husband who was a firefighter, my father was a firefighter and I have two sons who serve in the military. So PTSD practically has a seat at the kitchen table. It’s something that’s a reality for many people who serve.

Veterans affairs has opened 11 such clinics around the country to help provide treatment for operational stress injuries – psychological difficulties that arise from the job. The clinics are paid for by the federal government but run by the province.

“It’s about services provided to veterans and RCMP officers who are facing OSI,” said Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette. “If their organizations or physicians are not able to cope with that situation and think they have to have more advanced treatment, they will be referred to this clinic.”

Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, avoidance of public places, depression and emotional volatility. Experts said it can’t be cured, but can be treated.

“Basically, we can just decrease some symptoms: help with sleeping, we can help with the co-morbidities which are very often present like anxiety and depression. But the main work is done by the psychologist,” said psychiatrist Marie-Andree Ouimet. “It’s not a cure, it’s how to live with and how to decrease the symptoms, because the nervous system is functioning as at war and they need to learn when the anxiety is coming up, how to control it.”

The clinics will also offer help to veterans’ families, which Royal Canadian Legion member Cheryl Moores said she wished her family would have had access to when her father returned from World War II.

“When they came back from the war, they didn’t want to talk about it,” she said. “They didn’t really tell their families what they went through. It wasn’t until later in my life I realized what my father went through, because he didn’t talk about it. Now, I think some veterans do talk about more, and that’s good.”