Adapted from WE Vancouver by Nancy Carson
(The videos in the links are highly recommended.)
A program at the University of British Columbia (UBC)
is helping soldiers return to civilian life.
These soldiers are called veterans.
Other programs help veterans heal soldier’s bodies.
But the Veterans Transition Program (VTP)
helps heal their hearts and minds as well.
People attend in a group and work together.
Dr. Marvin Westwood and Dr. David Kuhl
developed VTP in 1999.
A much-needed program
About 30% of soldiers suffer trauma
from being in active combat.
There are many signs that show
a soldier has trauma.
Some have nightmares or cannot sleep.
They have flashbacks.
This means they relive the experience many times.
Some cannot focus well.
One man was sleeping under his bed.
Some begin to abuse alcohol or drugs.
These drugs help them forget.
Without help, veterans are twice as likely
to commit suicide.
Soldiers often see things most people
cannot think about.
Sometimes they face their own near-death.
Other times they are unable to save someone’s life.
Or they can’t help a child in a refugee camp.
When the soldiers return home,
many of them cannot forget.
They think maybe they could have done this.
Or maybe they could have done that.
The thoughts return again and again.
Life becomes very difficult.
Dr. Westwood calls this a “soul injury”.
The men and women in the VTP work with doctors
and each other to get information and skills.
These skills help these people get their lives back.
Success of the program
About 275 veterans have been in UBC’s program.
Researchers find that members of the VTP
have fewer signs of trauma later.
And they have more self-confidence.
Many now have new careers.
Other members say their relationships
with their children and partners have improved.
Future of VTP
There are plans to take the VTP to first responders in the police,
fire department, and other emergency services in B.C.
People working in these areas also
see things during their work that the rest of us do not.
Often these workers also suffer trauma.
A graduate of the program
Tim Laidler was a member of the program in 2010.
Now he helps others through VTP.
He is executive director of the new Veterans Transition Network.
The Royal Canadian Legion, Veterans Affairs Canada
and other organizations donated $1.4 million to help veterans.
Thanks to this funding, this non-profit network
can also offer its treatment program across Canada.
Laidler hopes to reach 2,000 vets over the next five to ten years.