A new framework for defining and understanding Veteran and Veteran Family engagement with Canada’s mental health system
Our Engaging with Veterans and Families: Creating a new approach to collaboration framework helps to improve our common understanding of how Veterans and Veteran Families want to be engaged. It identifies evidence-based principles and provides practical examples of ways to engage meaningfully with Veterans and their Families in the mental health system.
While the concept of engagement in mental health system, services and research is not new, we found this to be a novel concept within the Veteran and Veteran Family mental health sector. Geared toward mental health organizations, systems and service providers, the framework provides guidance and thought leadership to organizational leaders, policy makers, service providers, researchers and others within the mental health sector.
We know the mental health system can better respond to Veteran and Family needs when it is guided and informed by their voices, experiences and expertise. Engagement and involvement of Veterans and Families is a critical piece of the puzzle, and is one of seven key guiding principles in the Atlas Institute’s blueprint for a transformed Veteran and Family-centred mental health system. This resource provides a starting point for defining and understanding Veteran and Veteran Family engagement and involvement within the mental health sector in Canada.
Engaging with Veterans and Families – Creating a new approach
How the framework was created
The creation of the framework relied on the expertise of an external advisory committee comprised of Veteran, Veteran Family, research and service provider perspectives. This included consultations with the Atlas Institute’s reference groups and lived experience team, and reviews of existing literature on engagement within the Veteran context and more broadly.
WHY IT MATTERS
“Both law enforcement and the military have a culture and it’s got its own set of rules and values that is completely different from the civilian life.”
Former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
“You don’t have to speak my language, but if you’re making an effort, I’ll meet you halfway.”
Veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces
“There is merit in conveying the learning process in itself to engage people who wish to be engaged.”
Veteran Family member
The framework includes the following sections:
- The current state of engagement in the mental health system in Canada
- Evidence-based principles and practices for creating meaningful engagement, including strategies to support organizations engaging with Veterans and Families
- Benefits and outcomes of engagement
Applying evidence-based engagement principles and practices can minimize risks to organizations and to Veteran and Veteran Family member participants and can help improve health outcomes. Veteran and Veteran Family member engagement has the potential to strengthen Veteran mental health care and can support recovery if done safely, by building social connections and empowering Veterans and their Families.
Together, we can transform the mental health system into one that is guided by, and honours, the wisdom of those with lived experience, and which is responsive to the needs of Veterans and Veteran Families.