UBC recruits military men for research program involving hockey, to help veterans transition to civilian life

·2 min read
Canadian troops warm up before a ball hockey game at the military base in Kandahar, Afghanistan in February 2010. The game is popular on Canadian bases worldwide and a new program designed to help veterans transition back to civilian life has ball hockey at the centre of it.  (Steve Rennis/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Canadian troops warm up before a ball hockey game at the military base in Kandahar, Afghanistan in February 2010. The game is popular on Canadian bases worldwide and a new program designed to help veterans transition back to civilian life has ball hockey at the centre of it. (Steve Rennis/The Canadian Press - image credit)

If you are a Canadian military veteran who identifies as male and loves a good game of ball hockey, a new program created by researchers at the University of British Columbia could be for you.

It's called the Purpose After Service through Sport program, or PASS, and brings together men who have served or are currently serving in the military, for weekly scrimmages where they can connect socially, access resources to make the transition out of the military less stressful, and blow off steam with some friendly competition.

The program was first launched by UBC researchers in 2019 and now, with funding from Veterans Affairs Canada, is being expanded to nine locations across the country — including Esquimalt, B.C. — on a trial basis to evaluate how well PASS can support the health and well-being of male military veterans.

"Men, in particular, are very reluctant often to reach out and seek help," said UBC kinesiology professor and PASS lead researcher, Mark Beauchamp, speaking Wednesday on CBC's On The Island.

WATCH | PASS participants share their experiences with the program:

Beauchamp said he has heard from veterans that finding work, making friends, and accessing mental health and education resources are common challenges when they leave service.

He said he also heard that ball hockey is a popular game at military base camps all over the world — and the idea for PASS was born.

"As well as deriving the benefits of activity, it is also used as really a conduit to link veterans to other support services," Beauchamp said.

Men currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, either as a regular force member or reservist, are also invited to sign up because the program may help them down the road when they leave service.

Now that PASS is expanding nationally, more participants are needed. In addition to Esquimalt, B.C., program trials are also being held in Edmonton, Alta., Shilo, Man., Borden, Ont., Kingston, Ont., Petawawa, Ont., Valcartier, Que., Montreal, Que., and Gagetown, N.B.

The methodology includes separating participants into two groups. One will receive the PASS program after completing baseline measures, the second will be on a wait-list control group that will receive the program after six months.

Eligible participants interested in taking part in the trial are asked to email pass.trial@ubc.ca.

While the PASS trial is for military veterans who identify as men, there is also a similar program for veterans who identify as women called Purpose After Service through Connectivity and Exercise (PACE). More information is available here.

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