'It's been life-changing for a lot of veterans'
By: Jillian Austin
Women’s program designed to aid struggling ex-soldiers, cops
Flashbacks. Loneliness. Insomnia. Depression.
These are just a few of the challenges military veterans may face as they return to civilian life.
For 20 years, the British Columbia-based Veterans Transition Network has delivered group counselling programs to assist former members of the Canadian Forces and RCMP who are struggling.
The organization continues to expand across the country, and next month will host its first Women’s Program in the Prairies.
Jenna Bind, Western Canada operations co-ordinator, said it was important to offer a women-only session.
"Women face some very different challenges through the military, things that we want them to be open to talking about in a group," Bind said. "And sometimes if it’s a mixed group, that might not be as possible."
The program was designed specifically to help veterans overcome the various issues holding them back from finding happiness and success in their civilian lives.
Bind said it is designed to allow the veterans to build trust in the group, learn new methods of communication, work on relationship building and managing mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
"Then they can go home and start trying these things out in the real world, putting them into practice," she said.
The program spans three weeks, with participants coming back on the weekends.
"There’s a lot of trust-building there, and a chance for them to really practise these new skills that they’re gaining," Bind said.
The Prairie program begins Sept. 15, and there are still spots available. It will be held at a location two hours east of Winnipeg. The exact location is not disclosed for privacy reasons, but any interested veteran is encouraged to contact Bind by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 1-844-236-8387.
"If it seems like a good fit, we’ll go from there," she said.
The network is a Veterans Affairs service provider, so veterans can be referred by their case manager.
"At the same time, we’re a separate not-for-profit, and we do that specifically so that people that are isolated, not currently getting services or not supported by Veterans Affairs can still come on the program, through our wonderful donors."
The network will arrange transportation and cover the costs to get there.
Pamela Hall, veteran family co-ordinator with the Military Family Resource Centre at CFB Shilo, is thrilled to see the program expanding to different areas in the country.
"I’ve heard really great feedback from anybody who’s been on the program. It’s been life-changing for a lot of veterans," she said.
Shilo’s MFRC offers support to veterans and their families in a number of ways, including the Veteran Family Program, which started as a national pilot project in 2015. This program supports medically released veterans and their families as they make the move to civilian life. Support includes mental health programs and one-on-one support for developing a transition plan.
Across the country, it is estimated that there are 2,500 medical releases each year.
"Those are individuals who are released form the military due to mental and/or physical health conditions," Hall said. "That can be difficult with transitioning because there’s health factors at play."
There are also challenges associated with making the transition from a military workplace to a civilian workplace. Hall said a key factor in future success is building up a new civilian support network.
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