The Veterans Transition Network, is currently hosting a series of sessions aimed at guiding veterans with Operational Stress Injuries (OSI) through the transition process by focusing on counselling and peer support.
Though the organization is national, this current series of sessions, entitled the Men’s Manitoba Veterans Transition Program, is being held in Manitoba. This session, and others like it, are held across the country, several times throughout the year.
The program is a ten-day retreat with four to six veteran participants. The current session is being held on the weekends of Feb. 17, March 3 and March 10.
The retreat is led by two clinicians who are experienced in working with the military and trauma populations. They then receive additional training from VTN. These clinicians are supplemented by two paraprofessionals, veterans who have previously gone through the program.
At its core, the program is aimed at providing peer support and counselling.
“We really want to be a military peer-to-peer program, as well, because those that have been there know most about it. So, having that support system is really important to us,” said Jenna Bind, Operations Coordinator Western Canada, VTN.
The retreat gives the veterans a chance to speak about their shared experiences and the traumatic events that have shaped them.
“Because they’re working with other veterans, and they have that support network, they are able to open up quite quickly on these weekends; sometimes, more so than in some longer term counselling where they’re alone or working with someone not specialized in working with military population,” added Bind.
The veterans are given tools and taught strategies on communication, especially in the civilian world, goal setting for the future and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)/OSI management techniques.
The sessions are broken up by several weeks in between to allow the participants time to practice the learned skills and come back and discuss their experiences.
The organization has been looking to expand in Manitoba for some time now. So far, VTN has held three programs in Manitoba over the last few years, mostly expanding through word-of-mouth. Those who have attended, attest to the impact the program can make.
“One of the veterans that I talked to, he’s a paraprofessional now, what it [the program] did for him, [was that] he was able to take something that happened to him, that was really hard, and it’s still there, but he was able to kind of put it on a shelf, and he can look at it now and say: ‘those things happened, and they were terrible, but I accept it. I accept where I was in it.’ And he can look at it now without making him feel anxiety, without making him feel depressed, without making him have that emotional response that makes him closed off to the world,” explained Bind.
VTN covers the cost of transportation, lodging, and food for its participants.
“We really want to have it accessible to everybody. We don’t want someone’s location or financial situation to prevent them from our attending our programs,” noted Bind.
According to Bind, the attendees of these retreats often form life changing relationships, an experience all veterans should have.
“We all deserve to have a high quality of life, and we all have baggage and things we are carrying, especially in the military; but when you transition out of the military your support systems and network around you are often lost a fair bit, and it can be hard to regain that and kind of find your footing. So, whether you just have a bit some anxiety or are facing some challenging issues a program like this can really bring you into the fold of a group of people that really understand what you’re going through and give you that support,” said Bind.
The next Men’s Manitoba Veterans Transition Program is scheduled for sometime in June.
VTN holds similar retreats across the country. To see the dates for upcoming events check out the schedule on the VTN website .
For more information about Manitoba’s programs email firstname.lastname@example.org.