HiMARC graduate researchers share their experiences supporting readiness, resilience and growth

By hearing military and veterans' experiences and service needs, our goal is to inform meaningful ways to support their readiness, resilience and growth.

As jointly told by graduate students Rashell Wozniak and Myrah Malik - 09 November 2023

Rashell Wozniak and Myrah Malik are researchers working to capture and amplify the voices of military members and veterans and their understanding of readiness, resilience and growth. Wozniak, a doctoral candidate in the School and Clinical Child Psychology program in the Faculty of Education, and Malik, a graduate of the Department of Occupational Therapy in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, both hold graduate research assistantships with the Heroes in Mind, Advocacy and Research Consortium (HiMARC)

A focus of their research is a review of resilience and well-being apps for military members, public safety personnel and veterans. This is a piece of Wozniak’s dissertation, tentatively entitled, “For those who serve and have served: A holistic view of the current state of resilience and well-being programs for military members, public safety personnel, and veterans.” Other components of her ongoing project include a scan of resilience-based programs, and focus groups with military members regarding their experiences and views on the current resilience and well-being supports available to them. 

Their research also includes a literature review entitled “Cascading resilience: An updated scoping review of digital health interventions for military members, veterans, and public safety personnel.” 

Through this first-hand account, Wozniak and Malik share how their research and involvement in HiMARC are broadening their awareness of how to better support military members, veterans and their families during training, throughout their careers, and after services.

Why did you choose this project and what makes it impactful?

As military members and veterans pride themselves on being ready and resilient to serve, we take pride in supporting those who serve and have served. Through our research, we have grown by reviewing the resilience literature, and have been impacted by military members and veterans who have shared their experiences and stories with us. These conversations have truly inspired us and highlighted how important it is for us to engage with them at each step of research and project development — from the development phase to initial implementation, to evaluation. It is so important that we understand their unique experiences and needs if we are to inform relevant ways to support their readiness, resilience and growth. We need to hear, listen to, and amplify their voices.

What is Readiness, Resilience and Growth (RRG)? 

Readiness, Resilience and Growth (RRG) is an initiative that aims to foster a mindset of readiness among military members and their families, enhance their wellness and resilience, facilitate operational readiness and cultivate a growth orientation. RRG is a holistic, integrated and experiential approach to supporting the well-being of regular and reserve Forces members, Canadian Rangers and civilian employees across all domains, including physical, psychological, social and spiritual. We believe fostering RRG requires that support be provided at all stages of service — during training, throughout their career, and after service. 

What was your experience with engaging with Readiness, Resilience and Growth?

Our experience with Readiness, Resilience and Growth is still in its infancy. I (Wozniak) recently completed my candidacy exam on this project and discovered, through conversations with professionals across faculties, the complexity of readiness, resilience and growth. The main takeaway from this experience and developing my project is the importance of intentional research made with and for military members, and providing a platform to amplify their voices. We look forward to learning more about and engaging with this initiative, especially as conversations unfold. 

How did your views change about the military and veterans?

Our views have changed about service and support for military and veteran populations. In conversations I (Wozniak) have had with members, I began to reconsider the unique barriers they experience receiving care. These conversations have allowed me to consider more deeply the therapeutic experiences of military members and veterans. These conversations have also allowed me to be more empathetic and understanding of their unique histories and experiences that may impact their engagement with services. Based on these experiences, we aim to be more intentional when considering ways to enable members and veterans to feel more comfortable seeking support, “letting their guard down,” and overcoming barriers to care. We are also more keenly aware that, as civilians, we have a limited understanding of military culture, and therefore need to deepen our understanding if we are to effectively support them. We hope to continue growing in this area and to provide platforms for members and veterans to share their experiences, needs and feedback so that services for them can be improved. 

How can others support Readiness, Resilience and Growth?

We believe that others can support Readiness, Resilience and Growth by better understanding the unique role and experiences of military members and veterans. Those who serve turn towards danger when most individuals turn away. We need to foster systems of support that recognize those who struggle during and after military service are likely experiencing normal human responses after exposure to extraordinary or horrific circumstances. When we hear military members’ and veterans’ experiences and needs for services, perhaps this can cultivate a more empathetic, understanding and supportive approach toward members or veterans seeking support or care. 

How will you apply this to your future careers?

We have experienced our views on Readiness, Resilience and Growth shifting toward a more holistic perspective that includes the individual, their family, their unit, their service team and beyond. We no longer have an individualistic view of supporting Readiness, Resilience and Growth in one person. Rather, we now consider how they can be supported across systems and within organizations. This applies equally to our current clinical work where we now more broadly consider factors, resources and supports outside the individual, such as their school, family, neighbourhood and social supports.  

We are excited for our next steps in working with those who serve and have served.