Superior Media had the pleasure of catching up with veteran and caregiver advocate, Jenny Migneault, as she passed through Northern Ontario to speak with families and veterans affected by military Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Originally from Trois-Riveres, Quebec, Migneault’s tour spans from Northern Ontario to Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Having been married to a veteran, Claude Rainville, who had been diagnosed with PTSD five years into their marriage, she knows first hand how military PTSD impacts the entire family, not just the veteran.
“He couldn’t adapt to the civilian world,” Migneault explained, “The military didn’t recognize his wounds, they told him he was in perfect health, thank you very much and goodbye!”
His condition continued to deteriorate, and helping him became a full-time job for Migneault.
Her advocacy started in 2014, when Veterans Affairs Canada, under the Conservative government, committed $4 million in funding to an advertising campaign. In this video, she argued that the ad dollars are being misspent while the families of veterans suffering from PTSD continue to struggle without adequate government aid. She chased after then-Minister of Veteran Affairs, Julian Fantino, and shouted ‘I’m just a vet’s spouse. You are forgetting us, once more. We’re nothing to you.’
This moment of desperation was caused on by a number of factors that had drastically impacted her family’s life; a lack of knowledge, training, and understanding about PTSD, the difficulty in getting recognition for veterans and caregivers, and dealing with the reality of transfer-PTSD.
Not to mention the loss of identity she experienced by being associated only with her husband. The lack of independence took away a lot of her dignity as an individual being.
To this point, Migneault explained “We have to make our home a safe home for them (the veterans)… My husband was trying new pills (for PTSD) every six weeks for seven years. Nobody asked me what I was going through, or our four children… I would come down the stairs to our basement and see him crying on the floor. He didn’t want his wife to see him being so vulnerable and crying. Not to mention the endless nightmares.”
Dealing with all of this while also trying to balance working as primary breadwinner, care for a family, and cope mentally on her own brought Migneault to her whirlwind confrontation with Fantino. With that came national exposure through the media, and she has dedicated her time and resources to trying to change policy for veterans and caregivers ever since.
Although Migneault and Rainville divorced three years ago, she told Tim Murphy during an ONNpoint segment, “He is still isolated, still suffering, but he’s still in my life and I am still in his. We are still best friends. We went through that adventure of advocacy together… He supports what I do now and helps me do it.”
She has met personally with 160 members of Parliament to lobby for caregiver support, and has made important alliance with veterans’ groups, bringing family needs into the conversation.
While the situation in Canada has changed since 2014, Migneault states that we still have a long way to go.
“Since April 1st (of this year) caregivers can have access to the Caregiver Recognition Benefit. It isn’t compensation, it doesn’t make up for the paycheque, but it is recognition that you can have $1,000 per month to your name, the caregiver. The measure is there now, but the problem is that it is not accessible to those who have PTSD.”
In many ways, this is a win for advocates like Migneault, as it gives more independence and recognition to caregivers. However, its very specific conditions make it difficult to access.
“Apply for it anyway. Even though the criteria is totally inaccessible, still apply, because Veterans Affairs needs to know how many people need it, how many voices there are. Only then will they understand the reality.”
If you or someone you know and love is struggling since their time serving, there are options that Migneault describes as “life-changing” offered through the Military Family Resource Centre (ours is in North Bay).
She said, “The real challenge is to find quality of life, and for that you need financial security, you need to be able to put bread on the table, and live in an environment where people understand. You also have to be empowered regarding your own symptoms… Which is why we need to offer therapy that makes sense to the individual.”
Migneault encourages anyone who is interested in seeing governments be held accountable to those who have served their country – including caregivers – to contact her on Facebook to get in touch, and continue to bring the issue up to politicians.