The University of British Columbia has received $1.37 million from the BC/Yukon Command of The Royal Canadian Legion to expand its Veterans Transition Program (VTP). The only program of its kind in Canada, the VTP assists former members of the Canadian military in their transition back to civilian life. The funding will help create a new professorship and train counselling psychologists to deliver the program.
It is estimated that up to 30 per cent of returning soldiers are traumatized in active combat. They experience symptoms such as nightmares, sleeplessness and an inability to concentrate, making them prone to isolation and overuse of alcohol and drugs. Veteran soldiers are also twice as likely to commit suicide as non-veteran civilians.
“The Legion understands that our new veterans need care and attention,” said David Sinclair, President of the BC/Yukon Command of The Royal Canadian Legion. “Through partnerships with the University of British Columbia and other like-minded agencies, the Legion will be there and ready for our returning men and women in uniform.”
UBC’s Faculty of Education received $1 million to create The Royal Canadian Legion Professorship in Group Counselling and Trauma, a position that will oversee the long-term success of trauma repair through group counselling. Another $374,000 will be used to provide training for five counselling psychologists to deliver the VTP, allowing the program to expand to include first responders, police, fire and RCMP, and to be extended across British Columbia and potentially Canada.
“We are grateful to The Royal Canadian Legion for its generous gift,” said David Farrar, UBC’s Provost and Vice President Academic. “The new professorship will further UBC’s leadership in generating and applying new knowledge here in B.C., nationally and internationally.”
By the time Canada withdraws from Afghanistan next year, between 25,000 and 30,000 soldiers will have served there. These young soldiers will be trying to make sense of their military experience and its impact on their lives.
“Our soldiers go to war healthy, but when they come home they often need help to return to a healthy state of mind,” said Marvin Westwood, a professor in the Counselling Psychology Program in UBC’s Faculty of Education.
“The VTP was developed to address the invisible wounds of our soldiers so they can function and have healthy relationships with their families, friends, at work and with themselves.”
Established in 1997 with funding from the BC/Yukon Command of The Royal Canadian Legion, the VTP is a group-based program facilitated by Westwood and Dr. David Kuhl, an associate professor in UBC’s Faculty of Medicine.
The VTP is offered to returning soldiers as an early intervention. Soldiers work together with a team of psychologists, counselors and a physician to help one another recover from what they have experienced. Close to 200 veterans have gone through the program so far.
“It’s not simply a healing program,” says Tim Laidler, 25, who participated in the program and is returning to the VTP as a paraprofessional to assist other soldiers with their transition. “It’s about transitioning soldier skills into civilian skills, regaining what you may have lost overseas and building on your abilities.”
Follow-up research has shown that participants in the VTP have fewer trauma symptoms and gain personal confidence. They have improved relationships with their spouses, partners, children and families. In addition many participants access new work environments and careers.
“The Faculty of Education is committed to using our research expertise to promote the well-being of the community,” said Jon Shapiro, Dean pro tem of the Faculty of Education. “The expansion of our program, through these funds will ensure the sustainability of the VTP and enhance the strengths of our Faculty.”
The funding was announced today at the kickoff of the annual Poppy Campaign at Vancouver’s City Hall, where the first Poppy was pinned on Mayor Gregor Robertson. Donations from the Poppy Campaign fund the VTP and other programs and services for Canadian veterans and their families.
In addition to the funding announced today, the BC/Yukon Command of The Royal Canadian Legion has annually funded a chair since 1978 that partially supports the head of the Department of Family Practice in UBC’s Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Martin Dawes, the newly appointed head of the department, now holds that chair. Individual Legion Branches also support programs at UBC. Since 1980, the Mount Pleasant Legion Branch #177 has donated almost $1 million to the Department of Family Practice to fund a position in community geriatrics. For more information, visit: www.bcyuk.legion.ca