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Support for families and caregivers

Family members are the best companions on the path to well-being. As a family member, you may have an important role in your loved one's recovery.

Take care of yourself

Keeping your life in balance is essential if you want to take care of others. There are many supports for families and caregivers who may be dealing with the effects of an operational stress injury. Families and caregivers may also be eligible for certain benefits.

If you, as a family member or caregiver, experience the effects of an operational stress injury, the services listed on this page can be helpful:

  • You can call the VAC Assistance Service at any time for specific help and counselling for your situation.
  • 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 anyone, including yourself.
  • Seek support such as a family peer support coordinator.

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. They too have access to the VAC Assistance Service and can receive professional counselling.
  • 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

Mental health services for families

Under the Treatment Benefits Program, VAC may cover the cost for mental health services for family members when the mental health professional who is treating the Veteran indicates it will have a positive impact on the Veteran’s mental health.

For participants in the Rehabilitation Program, VAC may cover the cost for family members who need mental health services when the assessing or treating professional identifies it will help meet the participant’s rehabilitation goals and these services are not available through other programs.

For more information, please contact us.

VAC also provides support for a range of mental health services available to family members through the VAC Assistance Service. Veterans, former RCMP members, their families and caregivers can access mental health services at no cost 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by calling 1-800-268-7708.

Operational Stress Injury Resource

The Operational Stress Injury Resource for Caregivers is an online, self-directed tool designed for caregivers and families. It describes operational stress injuries and their impacts on the family, and how to support a Veteran through the treatment and recovery process. It teaches users practical skills including self-care, problem-solving and stress management techniques, for managing the challenges of the caregiving role. The tool is free, and there is no need to register to use it.

Mental health first aid for the Veteran community

This is a 2-day course tailored to address the most immediate mental health needs of Veterans and the people who care for, and about, them. The goal is to improve our collective capacity to recognize and assist with mental health problems, addictions, and illness by supporting Veterans in the workplace and personal interactions using evidence based practices. Mental Health First Aid for the Veteran Community sessions are given across Canada at various locations and times, so consult the website to find one near you and learn more about the program.

Other VAC resources

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 clinics that provide mental health services for Veterans also 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. You can access this support by calling the VAC Assistance Service toll free, 1-800-268-7708 or TTD/TTY 1-800-567-5803.

Support for grief

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.

There is bereavement support for families dealing with the loss of a loved one. This is available by calling the VAC Assistance Service toll free, 1-800-268-7708 or TTD/TTY 1-800-567-5803.

Through the Pastoral Outreach program, military Veterans and their family have spiritual support when the need arises. This service is similar to the help military chaplains provide to those who are serving. Former RCMP members are not eligible for the Pastoral Outreach program.

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