There has been an increase in the incidence of suicide in Canadian soldiers returning from war despite increased spending on the mental health budget. In September 2014, the Defence Department released new statistics showing that Canada’s military lost more soldiers to suicide than it did to combat in Afghanistan. These statistics have been cited as evidence that the government should be doing more for military personnel and that traditional methods of treatment are failing our veterans.
Fortunately, a new approach based on the research conducted by Marvin Westwood, Professor of Counselling Psychology in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia, is revolutionizing the way we treat veterans with depression and stress-induced injuries. Men, in general, are unlikely to seek help when dealing with depression. But military men are particularly reluctant because receiving a diagnosis of mental illness would effectively end their military careers. To overcome this challenge, Prof. Westwood developed the UBC Veterans Transition Network (VTN), a program that is separate from the military, and has had a tremendous amount of success working with these men in groups. In fact, the benchmark for success of the VTN is that none of the 500 men who have participated in the program have committed suicide.
The VTN course is very different from traditional forms of therapy because it capitalizes on a soldier’s desire to help other soldiers. The group approach works especially well for men who have been brought up in a team-based environment. Also, men are more likely to participate when they feel that their contribution may help another man.
According to Westwood, helping people repair from war-related injury is the best investment you can make. The successful treatment of more soldiers leads to more productive citizens and less trouble for families. Some of these men get their souls back.
The VTN has been so successful that Westwood’s group received a grant from Movember Canada to pilot its military-based program with non-military men at risk for depression, isolation and addiction. To date the results seen with the civilians is very promising.
To learn more visit: http://vtncanada.org/