Discovering Group Therapy
Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia, Landing Strong
It was September of 2020 when Paul Vardy (Ret’d Captain Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Officer), decided to join group therapy with the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia’s Landing Strong program. The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia is one of the 2021 recipients of the Bell True Patriot Love Fund. The funding received went towards the foundation’s Veterans Wellbeing Support Project to help with the extension of the Landing Strong program. According to the team at the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia, the need for mental health and addiction support has been exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this funding has enabled them to offer services to Veterans who might have otherwise fallen through the cracks.
Paul, who grew up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia joined the military in 1992 and spent 13 years there. It had been 20 long years after the traumatic incident when Paul was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). During those years, he didn’t know that he had been suffering from PTSD all along, attributing his symptoms to being “aggressive” after years in the military.
Joining group therapy was something his therapist recommended he try out. Up until that point, he had only tried one-on-one therapy and the thought of participating in group therapy brought up a lot of anxiety for him. After the first few sessions though, he realized that the people around him were more like him than they were different. “There was a lot of head nodding and what seemed to be understanding between the people who attended”.
There are stark differences between life as a military member and life as a civilian, Paul noted, emphasizing the importance of transition programs post military. “The military spends a lot of time training you to be a member of the military, and not a lot of time helping you prepare for a less structured civilian life.” Much of his healing he attributes to the supportive programs he’s been able to attend after being discharged. Transition support programs provide Veterans with many benefits, including mental health support, cultural transition support, healthy living, career support, and communication skills training.
When asked about his most memorable experience in group therapy, Paul referred to the entirety of it as having changed him. He describes the process of seeing individuals heal through the group therapy sessions as being rewarding. “They would begin to heal and become lighter in the process. It was nice to see.” After a while, the people he attended group therapy with became his friends. “We have a Facebook group where we all keep in touch”, going on to note that the group therapy environment enabled them to develop a supportive community.
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