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BC-born program helps military, police veterans re-enter civilian life

Last Updated Nov 10, 2017 at 7:42 am PST

(Photo courtesy Veterans Transition Network)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Veterans leaving the chaos of war often face a different battle at home as they transition back into civilian life, and too often, it can land them on the streets.

But for nearly 20 years, the Veterans Transition Network has been helping soldiers re-acclimatize themselves to society through group-oriented therapy.

“Unfortunately a lot of us have the tenancy to forget during the year that there are a lot of veterans coming back, and there really are a lot right now… Afghanistan, Iraq, there’s a lot of young veterans,” says Jenna Bind a program coordinator based in Vancouver.

“For us it doesn’t matter if they’re recently coming out for if they’ve been out for some time. It’s really about getting them the skills and the tools they need to play a role in society; to do well, to feel happy about life.”

The roots of the program date back to 1997, when Doctor Marv Westwood learned that his wife’s uncle had killed a man with his bare hands during World War II, and had been carrying that psychological burden ever since.

Working out of UBC, Westwood and a colleague started operating small palliative care groups of World War II and Korea veterans out of UBC.

Today, the Veterans Transition Network spans seven Canadian provinces. Any veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces or the RCMP can sign up for three weekend gatherings spanning six weeks, all expenses paid, just so long as they avoid non-prescription drugs and alcohol.

Anyone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or related conditions also receives at least 100 hours of therapy from specialized psychologists.

“(PTSD) can create large issues with them being comfortable in the community again, with going out, with feeling like they can engage in a workplace,” Bind explains. “Just coming through the program, they’re already going to meet some other veterans, likely in their local area, that they can start to build relationships with.”

The program is funded partly by the poppy campaign in the lead-up to November 11th, making Remembrance Day a key fundraising time for the service.

Bind adds they typically see a spike in interest from veterans outside the program every Remembrance Day.