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While many of us are gearing up for the holiday season, for some Veterans and their Families this time of the year is marked by grief, anxiety and depression. The pressure to be social, festive and joyful can be too much for many living with a post-traumatic stress injury. For others, separations from Family and friends can create intense feelings of sadness and longing.

At the Atlas Institute, we know that the season can be a difficult one to navigate. We know that Veterans can be surrounded by their Families and friends and still feel lonely. Veterans can be spreading kindness in their communities during this season and still feel hopeless. It’s possible to be experiencing the joys of this season with people you love and still feel discouraged. You are not alone – there are many resources that can help.

Follow us on our social channels and get 12 days of ideas and resources for making the season a little brighter.

To get started, take a look at our special resources;

You’ll find tips and ideas for managing the harder parts of the holidays. You’ll also find some ideas for creating celebrations that work for you!

Take a look at our new video that shares ideas for making the holiday season a little happier.

Veterans and their Families often have powerful stories to tell. Stories of strength and courage in the face of challenges, of resilience and healing after experiences of trauma, and of hope in the midst of darkness.

By sharing these stories, we hope to help others know they are not alone, and to honour the rich and diverse experiences of Canada’s Veteran and Family community.

Created by Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Veterans and Family members from across Canada — and told in their own words — these new digital stories bring to life real experiences that include profound loss, intense struggles and mental health challenges, while also providing a spark of hope.

Watch the digital stories here.

Honouring the service, courage and sacrifice of Canada’s military and Veteran community

Throughout the generations, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members have bravely served at home and around the world, on land, at sea and in the air, in pursuit of peace and freedom for all. Many paid the ultimate price for this ideal. Others returned home changed forever, with both visible and invisible wounds.

As we mark the start of Veterans’ Week 2022, we remember those who have sacrificed their lives in service to this country. We commemorate them by sharing their stories and experiences. We honour the Veterans who are still among us, including those who now live with post-traumatic stress and other physical, emotional and moral injuries as a result of their courageous service.

As well, we think of the military Families who have lost loved ones. We recognize the vital role Family members play in providing care and support to currently serving and former CAF members, and we honour them too.

This Veterans’ Week — and every day — we invite you to pause and reflect on the proud achievements and invaluable contributions these brave Canadians have made.

Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa

Commemorating key milestone anniversaries in 2022

This year includes several notable anniversaries for Canada’s military operations at home and abroad. Learn more about each of these historic events:

A few ways to observe Veterans’ Week

  • Ways to remember: From watching, listening to and reading Veteran stories, to organizing and attending commemorative events in your community, this article shares various ideas for actively participating in remembering the sacrifices and achievements of the Canadians who served and continue to serve our country at home and abroad.
  • Military history resources: Explore Canada’s proud military history by visiting one of Canada’s military and aviation museums, downloading educational resources, or browsing online exhibits and photo galleries.
  • Indigenous Veterans Day: On November 8, join in honouring and giving thanks for the service and legacy of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Veterans.
  • Remembrance Day ceremonies: On Remembrance Day, November 11, attend the 2022 National Remembrance Day Ceremony in person at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, or watch the ceremony live on TV or online. You can also find the closest local Remembrance Day ceremony in your community using the Royal Canadian Legion’s event locator tool.

Support is available

Veterans’ Week is the start of a season that can be challenging for some Veterans and Veteran Family members. Here are some resources that are available for Veterans and Families:

  • Directory of services: List of resources and supports for military members, Veterans, and their Families, including links to crisis services, counselling and therapy, educational tools and peer support.
  • Coping with the holidays resource: This downloadable PDF shares some tips to help Veterans and Veteran Family members reduce the stress of the holiday season.

On Indigenous Veterans Day, we honour the almost 15,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples who have served or are serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Read our latest blog post to learn about an initiative to ensure that every Indigenous Veteran’s burial place is located and honoured with a special marker.

A day to honour, celebrate and remember

Every year, on the third Friday in September, we pause to honour Canadian Military Families, to celebrate their contributions and to remember their sacrifices.

Over 2,000 CAF personnel are deployed annually, on operations nationally and internationally, that include (but aren’t limited to) things like protecting Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic, preventing illegal fishing and providing training to troops in Ukraine.

Each one of those members in uniform is someone’s spouse, partner, parent, child, sibling, or friend. While the members serve Canada, the military Families back at home often mark special occasions, illnesses, births, and other milestones without them. They raise families, continue careers and run households, remaining ready to welcome loved ones in uniform home when their mission is complete. They are the ones who keep the home fires burning.

More than ever, it is vital for Canadians in all communities to support each other. By recognizing, strengthening, and supporting the Family members and friends who stand beside our service members, we give those who are in the service invaluable support: the peace of mind that comes with knowing all is well back home.

Join members of the team at the Atlas Institute as we say a big “thank you!” to military and Veteran Family members and friends – today and every day.

Be sure not to miss our virtual summit, Empowering Veteran Families through knowledge, community and hope, taking place on 27-28 January 2023!

This free two-day event will provide information, tools and resources about Veteran Family mental health and well-being. Registration launches on 12 October 2022. Stay tuned for more details!

In the fall of 2021, the Atlas Institute (when we were known as the Centre of Excellence on PTSD) partnered with Carleton University in Ottawa to develop Pathways: Experiences of PTSD. This virtual exhibition, developed by graduate students in the Department of History, features the testimonies of Veterans living with PTSD and their Family members.

The students, working closely with Atlas Institute mentors, developed the key themes of the exhibition:

  • PTSD is not an unusual response to traumatic events.
  • Its impacts are unique to each person.
  • The impacts extend beyond the person.
  • Healing is possible.

Combining research, first-person testimonies, photographs, works of art and mementos, the students have created a moving and important exploration of what many Veterans and Veteran Families living with PTSD experience day to day.

We invite you to explore Pathways: Experiences of PTSD and discover the many stories the students have so thoughtfully captured and presented.

We would like to thank the Veterans and Family members who generously gave their time, their stories, and their wisdom to the students:

  • Baltej Singh Dhillon
  • Laryssa Lamrock
  • Steve Lamrock
  • Sean Maher
  • Polly Maher
  • Tim O’Loan
  • Peter Winfield

We would also like to recognize the hard work and accomplishments of the student team, led by their instructor, Dr. Trina Cooper-Bolam:

  • Shrouk Abdelgafar
  • Jasmin Anisa Cardillo
  • Meghan Carriere
  • Sarah Catterall
  • Natalie Cross
  • Laura Lefevre
  • Alexa Lepera
  • Carol Markos
  • Kavita Mistry
  • Sam Nicholls
  • Meg Oldfield
  • Karen Reynolds
  • Lauren Rollit
  • Kirstan Schamuhn

Note that the exhibition is in English only.

Post-traumatic stress can manifest in different ways, and it can affect many people. It can be present among military members, RCMP members, Veterans, and their Families — particularly among those who have observed or been exposed to traumatic events while serving. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause feelings of sadness, fear, guilt and, in some cases, hopelessness.

Individuals experiencing PTSD may face stigma from society. As people don’t always understand PTSD, this can lead to misconceptions about the individuals affected by it. This stigma can make seeking and asking for help difficult. Learning more about PTSD and its symptoms can help improve the lives of people who are struggling.

Throughout this month, we will share stories about living with PTSD. There is no shame in having it — it often emerges from situations where our lives, or the lives of loved ones, are threatened. This page also includes resources and information about PTSD. The goal is to understand it, to manage its impacts, and eventually, to heal. There is hope, effective treatments are available, and a better life is possible.



Tim O’Loan: Indigenous Veteran

Sharp Dopler: Veteran and LGBT Purge Survivor

Throughout the month of May, we will present profiles of Asian Canadian Veterans. We will share mental health journeys and stories of courage, strength, compassion, and healing. These Veterans have committed themselves to serving our country, at home and abroad. Theirs is a long history of heroism and selflessness to share, reflect upon, and celebrate.

We encourage you to follow our Asian Heritage Month posts on our social channels – FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn – and to return to this page throughout the month for new profiles of brave Asian Canadian Veterans.

For resources highlighting the many contributions of Asian Canadian Veterans, please visit:

Additional resources:

Lieutenant Tim Chi Lee’s family emigrated from Hong Kong in the 1980s and settled in East Vancouver. The Lee family was eager to integrate into the Vancouver lifestyle. Tim Chi’s childhood was similar to his peers — going to school, playing hockey, and hanging around with friends. Despite being born in Vancouver, at times, Tim Chi felt like an outsider. People would ask him about his background. They would ask, “Where are you from?” When he’d reply that he was from Vancouver, the usual follow-up question was, “No, where are you really from?” Thankfully, this was a rare occurrence in the diverse and multicultural city of Vancouver. However, Tim Chi experienced a difficult childhood that later manifested itself as depression and anger.

The impetus to join the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) came from Tim Chi’s father, who regaled him with stories of what the Canadian military had accomplished on the world stage. “My father believed that serving in the Canadian Armed Forces was noble, that it was a force for good,” says Tim Chi.  At a young age, Tim Chi’s mother encouraged him to enroll in the Navy League Program, where he revelled in the structure, sense of belonging, and comradeship that the program provided.After high school, Tim Chi joined the British Columbia Regiment – BCR (Duke of Connaught’s Own), an Armoured Reconnaissance unit of the Army Reserves. During his time with the BCR,), he enjoyed driving, especially vehicles with a manual transmission, and learning the Armoured Recce trade. “I was given every opportunity to succeed,” Tim Chi explains. He felt that he was continually supported by both his peers and the chain of command in his endeavours.

During his initial years in the military, Tim Chi was able to operate within a military environment because he didn’t have the mental space to feel or focus on anything other than training. This would eventually catch up to him. “I didn’t deal with it until it began to interfere with my work,” he adds.

In 2008 when Tim Chi was working full-time at the local Brigade Headquarters, he discovered that he wasn’t able to cope with or ignore the depression that was starting to take a toll on his life. “There would be days that I just wasn’t functional. I would regularly miss work, ignore phone calls, lock myself at home for the day, or have panic attacks when stressed. There were two concurrent triggers that really brought on my realization that I needed professional help. First, my inability to keep a regular schedule was starting to lead to disciplinary actions at work,” Tim Chi explains.

While some of his co-workers and supervisors questioned Tim Chi’s reliability, others recognized the signs and symptoms of depression and steered him toward Canadian Forces Health Services to get help. Concurrently, his girlfriend at the time saw how he was dealing with stress in an extremely unhealthy way and urged him to seek professional help. “These two intersections led me to the realization that I could not keep packing down or running away from feeling, but that I had to work through the things that were in my head,” he adds.

Tim Chi started to work with a social worker at HQ and began unpacking what the root causes were. He then was referred to a counsellor who specialized in military and police clients. “I was given the opportunity to learn coping mechanisms as well as how to understand, reframe, and work through a lot of the trauma, pain, and anger that I had been carrying with me,” says Tim Chi. Despite the stigma and potential career implications, Tim Chi persevered. “At that point in my life, I had no other choice. I was either going to lose my [military career] for disciplinary issues, or I could work to improve the situation.” Tim Chi had hit bottom and decided to seek help.

Tim Chi’s experience dealing with his mental health diagnosis was difficult, especially within his family and the Asian community. At that time, some members of the community never discussed or actively avoided the topic of mental health. “My parents were extremely shocked to find out that I was seeking professional help for mental health-related issues. They didn’t understand what it meant to seek the help of mental health professionals and just wanted me to get fixed quickly. I had to explain that the road to recovery would be a process that wasn’t going to happen overnight,” he says. His perseverance paid off.

Thankfully Tim Chi continued seeking help and went on to have a fulfilling career in the CAF. “I recognize that I was extremely blessed at that time to have a supervisor who believed in my potential and helped me through the mental health system.”

After a period of time, leadership responsibilities were entrusted to Tim Chi, and he grew as a leader to become a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) within the regiment. He took on significant leadership roles with the BCR and was recognized by the unit leadership for his dedication and work ethic.

He has fond memories of the Primary Leadership Qualification course, where he and his course mates were pushed beyond their physical and mental limits. While some of his peers lamented the experience, Tim Chi relished in the challenge. Some career highlights include deployment on domestic operations such as Op LENTUS in 2017, and various opportunities to travel at home and abroad. Tim Chi has seen every province in the nation, travelled to Europe to participate in regimental battlefield tours, and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in East Africa with members of the BCR.

During his time in the Intermediate Leadership Program, a national course for progression to the rank of Warrant Officer, Tim Chi was challenged by one of his peers to pursue a career as an officer in the CAF.

After considerable reflection and being action-oriented, Tim Chi decided to see if he had what it takes to be a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. After a rigorous selection process, he was one of three selected out of twenty applicants. Finally, the dream to fly aircraft in the CAF was becoming a reality.

Tim Chi credits his time in the army and the support of family and friends for his success. A serious commitment to his faith, family, and physical and mental wellness helps him manage the demands of military life. He is encouraged by the fact that the CAF has come a long way in the realm of mental health and well-being for its members. “Back then, they didn’t have peer sentinels and the briefings on mental health still seemed quite “distant” or inaccessible when discussed among junior ranks. I also felt the stigma of having these issues come from my family history, rather than from an operational stress injury,” Tim Chi explains. Today, there is specific mental wellness training for all rank levels that helps create awareness, reduce stigma, and train supervisors.

He currently works in the Operational Support Squadron at 19 Wing Comox. Tim Chi appreciates how fortunate he is, looks to each day with gratitude, and embraces the opportunity to serve Canada.

Staff Sergeant (Ret’d) Jim Wong feels very fortunate to have fulfilled his dream of becoming a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer. He retired as a Detachment Commander, having completed 37 years of service in uniform and plainclothes duties, primarily in Alberta and Ontario.

Jim’s family immigrated to Canada from China in 1950. They settled in the small town of Marwayne, Alberta (population 250), after his father purchased a restaurant with money he had saved from being a waiter in Edmonton. Language barriers made it harder for Jim’s family to adapt to Western culture.  Jim’s two older siblings found it particularly hard as they had to start school in a new language. While they worked in the family’s restaurant after school, Jim and his younger brother, who were born in Canada, were free to get more involved in school activities and sports.

Jim’s interest in policing started at the age of 12 when an RCMP officer intervened during an incident where two intoxicated individuals in the restaurant were assaulting his father. After this experience, Jim discovered that he wanted to help people, just like the Mountie had helped his dad. At that moment, he knew he could fulfill this vision by joining the RCMP.

Over his 37-year career wearing the “red serge,” Jim had postings all over the country. He was involved in operational policing, plainclothes duties, and investigated organized crime, motorcycle gangs, street gangs, and other serious criminal activity.

Being a member of Canada’s national police service was punctuated by several traumatic and life-altering events resulting in some mental health challenges. However, after receiving assistance from his chain of command, Jim found the necessary help and he’s been able to overcome many of these debilitating experiences. He continues on his mental health journey, is an advocate for peer support, and assists other members as a representative in the RCMP Members Employee Assistance Program.

“I have many fond memories from all my experiences, and I can say I never had a ‘bad’ posting. I always try to immerse myself in the community and am very involved with community events and projects,” says Jim. Some of the more memorable projects were Coats for Kids and the Liquor Bag Campaign where school children wrote or painted pictures on the liquor bags at Christmas with the theme of “don’t drink and drive.”

Jim was also involved with a mentorship program in partnership with local sports teams such as the Calgary Flames and the Stampeders. These teams would supply tickets to the RCMP, who in turn would have RCMP mentors accompany disadvantaged youth to these sporting events. Jim’s greatest desire was to help people, and that is what he got to do on a daily basis. “I worked with many fantastic men and women,” he explains. “The experiences and life skills that I learned in the RCMP are invaluable, and I feel it has made me a better person, father and grandfather,” Jim adds. It was a great adventure and he’d be happy to do it all over again.

Growing up in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, MCpl (Ret’d) Stan Clark’s first exposure to the military was going on army cadet exercises with his Scottish father, a British Army Veteran and member of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

Enjoying the rigours of mountain climbing and experiencing the outdoors of B.C. and the Yukon were the impetus for Stan to join the Navy League and eventually the Army Cadets. “My passion for the mountains was ignited when I attended a cadet leadership course in Banff and then subsequently an Outward Bound adventure in Wales,” says Stan.

Stan’s Korean mom was less enthusiastic about his desire to join a military organization due to her agonizing memories of life in North Korea and having to escape its oppressive military regime. She was fortunate enough to escape to South Korea with some of her siblings but unfortunately not all family members  in North Korea able to flee. Additionally, she had endured the demands of being a military spouse. She feared her son joining the CAF, as that would mean a life of going on dangerous deployments and being in harms way — similar to her husband’s experience. However, when she saw how being part of a cadet unit created a sense of belonging, purpose and comradeship for Stan, she eventually relented and gave her blessing.

Stan started his military career as a Reservist with the Royal Westminster Regiment (R Westmr R). He eventually transferred into the Regular Force and became a member of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR).

Despite serving in the elite Canadian Airborne Regiment as a young paratrooper, Stan left full-time service to finish high school and examine other career options. He returned as a Reservist to the R Westmr R and was able to share his newfound skills acquired in the Regular Force.

After the brief hiatus, Stan realized that he missed the structure and employment opportunities that the Regular Force offered, so he rejoined. His postings and deployments included Operation HARMONY in the former Yugoslavia, 3rd battalion RCR (Parachute Company), and then getting posted to CFB Suffield and rebadging to the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI). Stan deployed on Operation APOLLO (first rotation into Afghanistan) in 2001.

Unfortunately, Stan was injured during a friendly fire incident at Tarnak Farms while participating in live fire ranges. An unintentional 500-lb bomb was dropped on Stan’s platoon, killing four soldiers and injuring many more. Thus began Stan’s journey toward mental, physical and spiritual health. He was finally posted to the 39th Brigade in Vancouver, where he was given the opportunity to heal and start his medical release from the CAF.

Stan found that he received significant help from the physician’s assistant at CF Health services, who encouraged him to share his experience with other wounded members. This was his first exposure to peer support, which he continues to advocate for today.

Today, Stan uses his military skills and love for the great outdoors to support his recovery. He shares his experiences with other Veterans and hosts outdoor events so that fellow military members can find healing through physical activity and comradeship. He works with his local army and air cadets units, where he can continue to mentor and provide guidance to Canadian youth.

In honour of Month of the Military Child, we celebrate the children — young and old — of military and Veteran Families. It is important to recognize sacrifices military children make, as well as their strengths, and to provide access to resources that can help when times are tougher.

Follow our Month of the Military Child posts on to this page for new profiles of military kids across Canada — those who once were and those who still are!

We hope the following resources will support your Family in good times and in bad:

  • Strongest Families Institute – Military Programs: If you are looking for support with transitions such as deployments, postings, training courses, and reintegration, Strongest Families can help. Their programs help Families with children ages 3 to17 learn coping strategies on the issue of change. Services are free and available at convenient times, run by staff who are trained in military cultural competencies.
  • Wounded Warriors Canada (WWC): The WWC Warrior Kids program aims to help kids to build positive relationships with peers, gain knowledge, and develop new coping skills that will help them grow and thrive.
  • Guide to Working with Military Kids: This guide from Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services and Kids Help Phone offers great insights on working with and supporting military kids.
  • We Have Superpowers: “We Have Superpowers” is a kids’ book celebrating the ways children of Canadian Armed Forces members and Veterans support their parents through injury or illness.
  • CAFKIDS – Crisis Texting Service: Did you know that kids and youth from military Families living in Canada have 24/7 access to a free, confidential crisis texting service? Text CAFKIDS to 686868 anytime to get mental health and well-being support.

Kathryn proudly identifies as a “military brat.” Kathryn was a child in a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Family during the 1960s and 1970s. She lived on bases in New Brunswick, Quebec, and the former West Germany. Growing up constantly moving, leaving friends, and adapting to new cultures wasn’t always easy, but she wouldn’t change her childhood for the world.

Warrant Officer (Ret’d) Cyril Jordan

“I think military brats either do really, really well, or they struggle. As painful as it was at times to say, ‘Why do I have to make new friends? Why do I have to start over again?’ it was the best thing to prepare me to even live in the moment. It was a great platform to learn how to be with other people beyond my own self, beyond my culture, just to explore and be curious about that,” says Kathryn.

While she embraced the opportunities that came with living in different countries, Kathryn recognizes that the transitions were hard on the whole family. It took them time to re-adjust coming back to Canada. In Kathryn’s words, “Coming back to Canada after Europe, food was bland, and we’re talking the ‘70s so we didn’t have available what we have now when we go out.”

Transitions did also weigh heavily on Kathryn’s parents. “My father was not available emotionally or even physically. He would go away, he would sign up for things that would take him away for a year. He found it really hard, after being away on an exercise, or being in Cyprus or Egypt, to come back home and fit into the daily routines of life.”

Kathryn’s mother often played the role of a single parent, running the household while her husband was away. When he’d come home, it wasn’t always the picture-perfect reunion. There was often tension and arguments that would, unfortunately, sometimes turn violent. “I remember breaking up a fight — and, of course, these aren’t the things you tell other people when you are growing up. You want to hide those things,” Kathryn says.

Healing and forgiveness

Warrant Officer (Ret’d) Cyril Jordan

“When I left home, I didn’t know that my parents had PTSD. I was angry with them, and I felt like a swan with a broken wing. Luckily, I had my grandparents who I stayed with when I did leave home . . . I didn’t realize that my parents had PTSD until I was well into my 60s, as I started to look at my own PTSD and understand it,” Kathryn explains.

Through different therapies, self-discovery and embodying the concept of living in the moment, Kathryn has gone from resenting her parents to truly understanding them. Pursing healing and forgiveness helped her accept that we are all imperfect beings, and that it’s OK to be imperfect.

Kathryn adds, “When I look back and ask myself, ‘If I had the opportunity to live this lifetime again, would I live it the same way? Would I choose that?’ I can say, without a doubt, absolutely.”

A message for today’s military kids

Warrant Officer (Ret’d) Cyril Jordan

“Sometimes, it’s years later that the understanding comes. That the compassion, forgiveness and acceptance of who we are and what shaped us come to light. Just know that your parents love you and are doing the best they can with what they have right now.”

Growing up in a military Family, Grant felt that it brought a level of respect to his Family. People treated them differently because his dad was in the military. They were something special. His Family had an inspirational story, was financially set, and from the outside looking in, they had it together. But that does not mean things were always easy.

“Growing up, I didn’t really know what was different. I didn’t know what was normal. I only knew what was normal to me,” says Grant. After his father retired from the military, the adjustment was not easy. Grant found himself in a situation where he had to be hypervigilant and aware of his surroundings. He had to learn to read and relate to others’ emotions.

“I never knew what I was coming home to. I grew to be very empathetic, and in tune with my surroundings at a young age. I had to be, for my own safety. It made me wiser than I should have needed to be.” says Grant.

The isolation and lack of resources were hard. “Part of my dad’s PTSD was avoidance. My dad really separated himself from the military as he started to retire. I didn’t have much opportunity to meet other kids in my situation. So, I had to build my own community,” Grant explains.

It wasn’t until he left for university that Grant started to see what was really going on at home, that what was happening wasn’t “normal” and, unfortunately, was not okay. “I realized a lot of what I learned growing up came from living with someone whose brain was still primed for a war zone, and whose parenting skills were influenced by what was drilled into them. As a kid, the things that were expressed, and the ways they were expressed, were frightening, but I often blamed myself, because my dad never meant to hurt or scare me intentionally. He cherished (and still cherishes) me,” says Grant. “It took a long time, and multiple therapists, to hammer in that it wasn’t either of our faults, and that neither of us were bad people. That was when I started to heal, build supports, and lean on friends that I trust. The most important part of healing was learning boundaries with my parents,” he adds.

Finding community and learning to heal

“Building boundaries was hard. It’s hard to put that space in place, it’s hard to enforce distance when you know your parents need you, but I had to start taking care of myself,” Grant explains.

After setting boundaries, Grant started actively making an effort to build a community and seek help. His community started with a weekly game night and it soon became the highlight of his week. But Grant realized he needed more than one thing to look forward to. If his game night was cancelled, he needed other avenues to help him stay in a positive and safe headspace.

His newfound community helped him build back up to a place where he now feels more confident and in tune with himself. Grant has learned how to cope with difficult situations, conversations, or just hard weeks by building a large community and having different activities available that bring him joy and peace. He has learned the value of self-care through writing poetry, the arts, listening to music or podcasts, or even just taking the time to have a nice bath. Actively choosing self-care has made a big difference in his day- to-day.

“Sometimes, it could be hard to talk about the difficult things that went on. It’s hard to do that while equally expressing how massively I love my parents,” says Grant. “I was cynical about the idea of hope. I was depressed by the thought that hope wasn’t there. But with the right friends, the right medication, the right process — it’s hard to say it’s there, but I am saying its possible. It’s still a struggle, but more days are good than bad now. It is possible for things to get better,” he adds.

Anne, who grew up around Québec City in the 2000s in a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Family, is proud of her father and the sacrifices he made for his country. “My dad is a model of courage, strength and resilience,” she shares. Anne is very close with her father these days, even though her family experienced its fair share of challenges throughout the years.

Growing up in a military Family

Elementary school wasn’t always easy for Anne, who felt all alone at times. The only other student with a dad in the CAF had a very different childhood from hers. “His dad didn’t have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), so when he came home from assignment, everything was great,” Anne recalls. “They would do all kinds of activities together.” Anne’s father, on the other hand, received his first PTSD diagnosis when she was two. After returning from missions, he was tight‑lipped and tended to retreat into himself. Anne couldn’t understand why the two families were so different. “I was comparing myself to my friend, whose dad had the same job as mine, and wondering if I was the problem. I thought it might be all my fault.”


Anne wishes someone had explained to her what her father was going through back then. “It’s hard to understand that your parent has PTSD when you’re just a child,” she says. “l wish I knew what he was going through, what he was thinking.” Yet the professionals she turned to for support, though well‑intentioned, didn’t always understand what military Family life is like.


Because Anne’s didn’t understand her father’s PTSD, she ended up severing ties with him for a few years as a teenager, something she regrets. “I was mad at him for things that weren’t his fault. I was making connections that didn’t exist and assuming he wanted to be an absent father.” Anne’s friends were one of the main reasons that she eventually reconnected with her dad. She had a lot of trust in her friends, who helped her put things in perspective and encouraged her to write to her dad. “Without my elementary and high school friends, I might never had done that bout of soul searching. I might still be shunning him for things that weren’t his fault.” Bit by bit, father and daughter picked up the pieces of their relationship.

Pride and gratitude

“I’m happy with the relationship my father and I have built these past few years,” says Anne. The two have gotten to know each other anew, have relearned how to trust each other. Anne never would have dreamed that their relationship could be so good. “I really appreciate the connection we’ve built. We can talk about our experiences. I can open up to him, and he to me.”

Anne’s experiences will soon serve her in her career, as she is currently finishing a college degree in social service. “I want to help youth who are going through the same things I did. I think I can help other military kids build relationships like the one I have with my dad.” Anne wants to provide support that is tailored to the lives of CAF families, as there are still too few services for this community. She wants kids to feel heard and understood. “I think that my dad is proud that I’m trying to help other young people.”

Once she’s done her current program, Anne is interested in pursuing a bachelor’s and master’s degree and expanding her services to support those in the military coming home from assignment.

Message for today’s military children

More than anything, Anne wants young people to understand that they don’t need to bear the brunt of their family’s issues. “You aren’t the problem. What’s happening at home isn’t your fault.”

This Wednesday, 26 January, is Bell Let’s Talk Day. This year’s theme is “Supporting ourselves and each other.”

As conversations about mental health take place across Canada, we invite you to keep being there, keep talking, and keep listening. Now more than ever, every action counts.

Did you know?

  • About 1/5 of Canadian Veterans experience a diagnosed mental health disorder at some time during their lives1.
  • Up to 10% of Veterans in Canada will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while others may experience at least some of the associated symptoms2.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 Canadian Forces spouses surveyed in 2008/2009 reported being diagnosed with depression at some point during their partner’s military career3.

The foundation of military and Veteran culture is built on service to others, and that extends to Family members, friends, and service providers. Keep being there for your loved ones, for your support systems, and for your community as a whole. We are in this together.

Simply offering to listen to someone can have a significant positive impact. An important part of listening is creating a supportive, non-threatening environment where everyone feels comfortable to express themselves without fear of judgment or reprisal.

On Bell Let’s Talk Day, let’s make sure that we’re not just talking, but also listening and communicating meaningfully. The “OARS” Model suggests four core skills we can all use: Open-ended questioning, Affirming, Reflecting, and Summarizing.

Learn more about the OARS Model
Learn more about the OARS Model

Bell Let's Talk logoDon’t forget: Participate in Bell Let’s Talk Day by talking, texting, tweeting and engaging on social media and help raise funds for mental health and wellness programs in support of Canadian Armed Forces active members, Veterans, and their families.

Need support?

You are not alone. Support is available if you need it.

If you are in crisis, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Talk to your doctor or health care provider, or contact a Veteran mental health specialist at 1-800-268-7708.

It’s Mental Health Week in Canada, from 3 to 9 May, 2021. This week provides a chance for all of us to #GetReal about our how we are coping in this time of uncertainty and stress.

We can #GetReal about:

  • How we are really feeling, and challenging the beliefs that may stop us from asking for support and care from those around us,
  • How PTSD doesn’t just go away if we ignore it or push it down. The fact that PTSD doesn’t just impact the Veteran alone. But, PTSD affects families too. Partners, children, parents, and siblings  all feel the impacts of PTSD.
  • Accepting that some days are ok and others are not so great. Understanding what is motivating our feelings – the good ones and the harder ones –  is an important step in mental health,
  • The fact that we are not alone. While some of us have greater struggles, we all need to tend actively to our mental well-being,
  • Opening ourselves up to listen and respond to someone who might be struggling – creating a safe non-judgemental place for disclosure.
  • Self-care. It isn’t selfish to take time out to care for ourselves, particularly when we are all working so hard to juggle so many pivots and demands in the Covid-19 era.

Join us for a live webinar with Veterans Affairs Canada

In collaboration with Veterans Affairs Canada, the Centre of Excellence on PTSD will present a virtual panel discussion. Hear from members of the Veteran and Family communities, as well as from mental health practitioners about how we can support friends and family with their mental health.

Event Date/Time: Wednesday, May 5, 1:00 to 2:00 p.m ET


  • Brian McKenna, Strategic Advisor, Veterans, CoE – PTSD
  • Laryssa Lamrock, Strategic Advisor, Veteran Families, CoE – PTSD
  • Dr. Don Richardson, Scientific Director, MacDonald/Franklin OSI Research Centre
  • Dr. Vivien Lee, Chief Psychologist,Ontario Provincial Police

Join us in the conversation:

Resources that can help!

The Centre of Excellence on PTSD is creating mental wellness supports and services for Veterans and Veteran Families, these include:

  • A new mental health framework on how to best support Veterans and their families.
  • practical resource and a webinar which provide an introduction to Moral Injury and share how to recognize and support Veterans who may be living with it.
  • COVID-19 information and resources for Veterans and their families, public safety personnel and first responders.
  • Latest updates on PTSD and some options for therapy.

Together we’ll #GetReal.

Child and youth mental health are important too!

We are excited to celebrate National Child and Youth Mental Health Day on 7 May. All children and youth deserve to have access to diverse mental health services and supports within their communities whenever they need them. Watch for our new children and youth webpage, coming this summer!

The CoE celebrates Mental Health Week

Staff at the CoE share some messages about why it matters so much to us to ensure that Veterans and their Families have access to effective, relevant, and meaningful supports and services. We #GetReal about our work because we care for and honour the Veterans and Families who have given so much of themselves for our country. ​