Wounded Warriors Canada, NATAL representatives.
(photo credit: WOUNDED WARRIORS CANADA)
Wounded Warriors Canada, a national mental health charity, has established a formal partnership with NATAL, Israel’s leading trauma center for victims of terrorism and war, to support ill and injured veterans, first responders and their families.
“This is a historic moment for Wounded Warriors Canada,” said Scott Maxwell, the organization’s executive director. “We look forward to working with NATAL and their team of clinicians to deliver this world-class couples-based program to support Israeli veterans, first responders and their families who are struggling with the effects of terror and war in Israel.”
Wounded Warrior Canada is a privately funded national mental health charity, which provides a wide range of programs and services for individuals and family members affected by operational stress injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
The partnership, which is based on WWC’s COPE (Couples Overcoming PTSD Everyday), is the Canadian organization’s first international partnership with an Israeli organization and the first program done internationally.
Two clinicians who built the program, as well as five other WWC team members, joined Maxwell on the organization’s first trip to Israel to train a team of NATAL clinicians and to facilitate the ongoing COPE program.
“This partnership will be long lasting and involve ongoing best-practice discussions for years to come,” Maxwell said.
Col. (res.) Orly Gal, the executive director of NATAL, said that the organization was grateful for the opportunity to work with WWC on its COPE program which will “help to enrich NATAL’s holistic approach in helping couples with post-trauma to heal and recover.”
“Learning and implementing this innovative and unique therapeutic model is a valuable tool in day-to-day treatment and support of relationships in the shadow of post-trauma,” she added.
The COPE program was developed by Dr. Tim Black, an associate professor of counseling psychology at the University of Victoria who has been working with the military veteran community for the past 20 years.
Soldiers who suffer from PTSD usually re-experience traumatic battlefield events, either through flashbacks and or nightmares, severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event, severely impacting the individual’s everyday life.
The six-month program aims to help couples struggling with PTSD, using a community approach to help couples recognize that they are not alone and learn how to improve communication skills and manage stress as a team.
Maxwell told The Jerusalem Post that the organization was approached by NATAL at a conference in Toronto in September.
“They were looking for an effective couples-based program and they asked if we were interested in coming to Israel to train their clinicians [to use WWC’s COPE program],” he told the Post on the delegation’s final day in Israel.
While Israel does not have a specific unit dealing with veterans from other countries such as in the United States, the Defense Ministry and the IDF provide injured soldiers and their families with a variety of services, including mental-health treatment.
Maxwell told the Post that he wasn’t surprised to know that NATAL didn’t have a program like COPE because “most organizations treat just the individual, not the couple or families. It’s just something that is not being done around the world.”
In Canada, “we really only started talking about the issue [of PTSD] in the late ‘90s and really only started doing something about it in the late 2000s,” he said, pointing to Canada’s role in Afghanistan and the operational stress-related injuries diagnosed in soldiers returning from the battlefield.
The COPE program began in 2013 after the organization understood that there is no support for the family members of PTSD sufferers, he said.
“From conversations we had, we kept hearing ‘Don’t forget about us, we are on the front line.’ When we heard this, it clicked and we began the program,” Maxwell said. “We exist to fill gaps in mental health, and this is a gap within the gap.”