Summary of a roundtable on military, Veteran, and PSP families
February 7, 2023
Margaret Campbell, PhD
Each year, the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) Forum offers participants from academic, government, non-profit, and industry organizations an opportunity to present new research, explore emerging issues, and learn from each other. This year, the Vanier Institute of the Family co-hosted the roundtable with CIMVHR at their 12th annual Forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The purpose of the roundtable was twofold. First, it aimed to stimulate conversations about the unique needs and strengths of military, Veteran, and public safety personnel (MVPSP) families. Second, it explored how MVPSP families can benefit from and inform the direction of the ongoing Families Matter Partnership Development project.
Since 2021, the Vanier Institute has partnered with Dr. Heidi Cramm (PhD) of the School of Rehabilitation Therapy at Queen’s University, CIMVHR, and the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) on the Families Matter Partnership Development project. Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) through its Partnership Development Grant, this initiative is focused on developing research and training opportunities in Canada that support family research focusing on occupational risk and requirements.
The roundtable was an important step in helping to ensure that the Families Matter Partnership is relevant to the lives of MVPSP families, which are a diverse and often overlooked population. Many people with different backgrounds attended, including members of the Canadian Forces Morale and Wellness Services, Canadian Armed Forces, CIPSRT, Military Family Resource Centres, and Wounded Warriors Canada. Around 100 individuals took part in discussions led by experts in military and Veteran families to address the following questions:
- What are some of the unique characteristics of military, Veteran, and public safety personnel (MVPSP) families?
- What does it mean to live with and navigate the challenges faced by MVPSP personnel and their families?
- What are some of the consequences when these needs are not met?
- How do organizations or systems (e.g., educational systems, healthcare systems) respond to these needs?
- What do military, Veteran, and public safety personnel families need from the Families Matter partnership?
- How do we collectively envision a partnership that is designed to meet these needs?
- When you think about a partnership that supports knowledge mobilization for MVPSP families and those who work with them, how would you complete the phrase “Wouldn’t it be great if…”?
The roundtable identified several key issues:
Family identity and structure are influenced by occupational risks and requirements
Participants shared that MVPSP families navigate a range of challenges that stem from occupational risks and requirements associated with the sector in which the serving family member works. These risks and requirements flow into the family unit and can influence family identity, structure, and wellbeing.
The unique and diverse needs of MVPSP families are often unmet
MVPSP families have unique needs, but these families experience a range of barriers when attempting to access supports that would help address their needs. Support services available to MVPSP families are lacking. Not only do these families need help identifying and accessing existing support, but these supports must be accessible, plentiful, inclusive, and designed to fit the unique needs of MVPSP families. Similarly, they should be delivered by professionals who are prepared to work with people from a diverse range of cultures and backgrounds. Lastly, these supports should be delivered by professionals who are understanding of the different ways that trauma can impact an individual’s life and wellbeing.
Certain MVPSP families (e.g., single-income families, divorced families, racialized families) are the most underserved. There is a lack of resources and supports designed to fit the unique needs of MVPSP families who are vulnerable to racism, income inequality, sexism, and other forms of inequality.
The Families Matter Partnership must be informed by and fit the needs of MVPSP families
The Families Matter Partnership should offer MVPSP families resources, results, and a network. Additionally, the partnership should offer MVPSP families a concrete role within the partnership and help amplify their voices so that more people are aware of their experiences, complexities, and contributions.
Margaret Campbell, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow with the School of Rehabilitation Therapy at Queen’s University and the Vanier Institute of the Family. Her research focus is on the relationships between disability and family wellbeing, and she is currently developing a Family Science curriculum for those studying the families of military, Veteran, and public safety personnel.