Diverse, resilient and strong, military and Veteran families are an essential part of Canada’s social fabric. They’re on the front lines, providing care and support to their loved ones who devote their lives to their country. They have unique experiences as a result of the mobility, separation and risk associated with military service. Like most families, they are responsive and adaptable. Their important role is strengthened with evidence-based community supports and services.
For the past six years, the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) has brought together researchers, clinicians, industry, government, students, military and retired Veterans to mobilize knowledge and advance health research to support Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and their families.
The Vanier Institute shares CIMVHR’s passion for supporting military and Veteran families. We collaborate with community, academic, health and corporate leaders in the Military and Veteran Families in Canada Initiative and the Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle to enhance our understanding of the unique experiences, expectations and perspectives of military and Veteran families, and to ensure military families have equitable access to services and programs in their neighbourhoods.
I was grateful for the opportunity to contribute in my own small way at CIMVHR Forum 2015, where I participated in the social media team to transfer knowledge from this event to the public. Forum 2015 was hosted at Hilton Québec, not far from where a statue of Vanier Institute founder General The Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier – himself a member of a military and Veteran family – was recently unveiled, and where he and Madame Pauline Vanier are buried at La Citadelle. It was an honour to be part of such an informative, insightful and inspirational event, where delegates from coast to coast to coast demonstrated their devotion and commitment to the health and well-being of Canada’s military, Veterans and their families.
Research sessions at Forum 2015 provided delegates with an opportunity to learn about current and emerging health research covering diverse topics related to military and Veteran health, including mental health, family health and well-being, life after service, health technology, sexual harassment, coping and resilience, homelessness, trauma therapy and more. Forum 2015’s scientific poster session showcased research studies and initiatives, allowing people to directly engage with the minds behind today’s military and Veteran health research.
The content and many of the findings presented were intriguing, diverse and eye-opening, including:
- Non-biological “fictive” kin play an important supportive role in the lives of single military parents.
- In Australia, the definition of “Veteran” includes the family.
- The vast majority of single CAF parents report that military duties conflict with family life.
- Nearly one in five military spouses report having relocated 4 to 6 times due to postings.
- Research is being done with psychiatric service dogs to detect and manage anxiety and sleep disturbances among Veterans with PTSD.
- Despite the frequently-reported “doom-and-gloom” narrative and deficit-focused research, many positive outcomes have been found among children in military and Veteran families.
With delegates from across the country and from diverse disciplines and backgrounds, this event demonstrated a national desire to understand and support Canada’s military and Veteran families. As CIMVHR’s Scientific Director Dr. Alice B. Aiken said at the end of Forum 2015, the desire to “serve those who serve us” has been an enduring driver for CIMVHR, and will continue to be so in the years ahead.
Nathan Battams is a writer and researcher at the Vanier Institute of the Family.