Brock-led project to support Ontario veterans through innovative wellness program

Brock researchers are on a mission to help veterans rebuild social connections and decrease post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms after returning home from serving their country.

Comrades in Well-being is a two-part program offering evidence-based wellness practices for veterans to improve mental health using sound healing, breathwork, yoga and peer support beginning Saturday, Nov. 4.

Brock has teamed up with Boots on the Ground, a volunteer organization offering confidential peer support for first responders across Ontario, to deliver the program to veterans.

“It’s about finding different ways to show up for yourself to support your mental wellness, whether that is showing up physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. There are different ways to show up on different levels,” says clinical co-lead on the project Tiffany Hunt, Adjunct Professor in Brock’s Faculty of Education and Registered Clinical and Health Psychologist.

The program will offer a full-day retreat Nov. 4 at Brock University followed by 12 weeks of weekly peer-led virtual meetings.

“In addition to talk therapy, we know people make connections in different ways,” Hunt says. “People often make deeper connections when they feel things, not only talk about them — these treatments can be transformative.”

The retreat will include a panel discussion led by veterans sharing their lived experiences, a talk addressing trauma and healing given by Hunt and Tessa Alexander, Registered Psychological Associate and co-clinician on the project, and sessions on sound healing, breathwork and yoga followed by an opportunity to reflect as a group.

The virtual meetings that follow will include sessions in one of the alternative methods and a reflection circle.

According to Hunt and the research team — which includes lead researcher Brock Professor of Educational Studies Vera Woloshyn, Associate Professor of Educational Studies Michael Savage and Adjunct Professor and Instructor Lauren Cripps — a key aspect of the program is the followup, helping veterans to experience the benefits of structured, consistent treatments.

Hunt is especially motivated to continue the research given mounting clinical support for expanding mental health and wellness benefits in Ontario, citing growing research evidence that mindfulness-based practices are helpful for reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD in various populations.

“There is so much value in building on this research and offering it to veterans,” Hunt says. “If you want different results, you need to do something different.”

Through funding from True Patriot Love, Canada’s foundation supporting military members, veterans and their families, Comrades in Wellbeing is free for Ontario veterans, including RCMP.

“We have a fantastic team at Brock working with community partners on a great cause,” Hunt says.

Registration is still being accepted for the program, and veterans interested in applying can do so through Comrades in Well-being or Boots on the Ground.

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