Information for families

Veterans with an operational stress injury (OSI) are much less aware of their family's needs when they are trapped in their own pain, but their most important ally on the path to recovery is their family. As a family member, you can play an important role in the Veteran's recovery. There are many ways you can help.

When your spouse has an OSI - some helpful tips

  • It is ok to feel sad about the changes in your spouse, your relationship and your family.
  • You can help, but you cannot cure your partner.
  • Be as good to yourself as you are to your partner.
  • Avoid blaming yourself for the lack of intimacy in your relationship.
  • Seek support groups such as a family peer support coordinator.
  • Learn all you can about OSIs.
  • Do seek counseling if you're having any difficulties.
  • Be proud of your efforts, you deserve a pat on the back.

Helping your children

Children will be less likely to blame themselves for their parents' problems, but they can feel confused. Here are some things you can do to help:

  • Talk to your children about their feelings
  • Talk to your children about OSIs and the behaviour that may result (e.g. irritability, anger, withdrawal, sadness, etc.)
  • Allow them to freely express their feelings – this will help them feel secure and connected and avoid unintended feelings of guilt or shame
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New online operational stress injury resource for caregivers of Canadian Armed Forces members and Veterans

The Operational Stress Injury Resource for Caregivers is an online, self-directed tool designed for caregivers and families of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members or Veterans living with an operational stress injury, or OSI.

This tool includes information on operational stress injuries and their impacts on the family, and how to support a CAF member/Veteran through the treatment and recovery process. It will teach its users practical skills including self-care, problem-solving and stress management techniques, for managing the challenges of the caregiving role.

This online educational tool is the result of an innovative partnership between Veterans Affairs Canada, Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services, and the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Care Group (The Royal).

The bilingual Operational Stress Injury Resource for Caregivers is free to use, and there is no need to register to use it.

Helping yourself

Taking care of yourself is just as important. To be as helpful as possible to your loved one, you need to keep your own life in balance. Learn more about taking care of your own mental health.

VAC programs for families

Veterans living with complex mental health condition(s) will usually have access to a VAC case manager. The case manager is a resource for both the Veteran and their family.

The Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) program has family peer support coordinators who provide assistance to families living with an OSI.

Many OSI clinics offer a "family friendly" approach to support the Veteran's treatment plan. These clinics provide couple and family assessments; counselling for partners; and family therapy.

Pastoral Outreach provides Veterans and their families with spiritual support.

Bereavement Support

The HOPE program (Helping Our Peers by Providing Empathy) is a peer support program that provides confidential peer support to military families who have lost a loved one. Call them at 1-800-883-6094 or email HOPE-ESPOIR@forces.gc.ca.

No one is ever prepared for the loss of a spouse. It is a time of great emotional stress when you may be overwhelmed by feelings of grief, fear, anger, and confusion. Learn more to help you and your family plan ahead for this difficult time.

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