FREDERICTON — A Canada-wide research study is being launched with the aim of helping members of the Canadian Armed Forces and veterans transition to civilian life.
The study, based around a New Brunswick-based program called Shaping Purpose, will examine the experiences of 84 Forces members and veterans.
"Of the roughly 5,000 regular force members who leave the Forces each year, about 27 per cent have difficulty with transition due to a loss of identity," said Andrew Garsch, vice-president of program delivery with Shaping Purpose.
Garsch was an engineer officer for 12 years before being medically discharged.
"It stripped from me who I was, and it took from me everything that I worked towards for my entire adult life. I became completely isolated and lost all confidence and was completely depressed," he said.
He said until that point he identified himself as a soldier: "I didn't realize that with that being taken away from me I felt that I had nothing."
The research will build on a pilot project to assist Forces members and veterans define a new purpose in life and plan a way forward. During the pilot project, the participants used existing programs provided by the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Assistance Program and the Veterans Affairs Canada Vocational Rehabilitation program.
Garsch said there will be four sessions across the country, starting with 21 individuals in Moncton, N.B., next month. The other sessions will be in Ontario, either Alberta or B.C., and a final location that is yet to be chosen.
Kevin McCoy, the president of Irving Shipbuilding, which is helping to fund the study, said he has seen the issues first-hand.
"As a 36-year veteran of the United States Navy this is very personal to me. I've witnessed the challenges and anxieties that can be faced when transitioning from military to civilian life," he said.
"A career in the armed forces requires some sacrifices and time spent away from family and friends to serve the country. You dedicate your life for the betterment and protection of society. When members leave the armed forces, it's important that we, as a society, provide support and assistance so that they can continue to contribute to society in meaningful ways," McCoy said.
Bruno Battistini, scientific director of the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation, said participants will be asked to complete a number of questionnaires and go through a four-day program to gather information about them as individuals.
He said the researchers will follow-up with participants in the weeks, months and year following.
The research study and the evaluation of the program is expected to be completed in December 2018, with the intent to present the findings to the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada in the spring of 2019.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press