Veterans Affairs Canada awards $40k to Lawson for veteran mental health study

FILE - Canadian infantry soldiers from 3-PPCLI carry battle gear including a shoulder launched rocket as they walk a ridge line March 14, 2002 in the Shahi Kot mountains in Afghanistan. Pool Photo/Getty Images

Veterans Affairs Canada has awarded more than $40,000 to researchers from London’s Lawson Health Research Institute to study whether particular personality traits serve as risk factors or protective factors when it comes to the development of mental health disorders in veterans.

The year-long study aims to determine whether personality traits like openness, agreeableness, emotionality, honesty-humility, conscientiousness, extroversion, and resiliency may predict mental health symptoms in veterans.

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“We want to be able to predict… who is most likely to develop these kinds of symptoms and conditions,” said Dr. Rachel Plouffe, postdoctoral associate at Lawson and the study’s co-lead, in an interview Thursday with 980 CFPL’s Mike Stubbs.

“Researchers thus far have identified some risk factors, but personality is an area that is extremely understudied in terms of whether or not it predicts the development of mental health conditions.”

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Members of the Canadian Armed Forces, she says, are at higher risk of developing symptoms of mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, due to the unique and challenging experiences they face, including combat.

At least 500 veterans, including some seeking treatment, will provide the data used for the study by way of rigorous survey questionnaires which will give researchers an idea of their characteristics and personality traits, Plouffe said.

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The results of the surveys will be used to assess whether that person’s expression of certain personality traits can predict levels of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Researchers also hope to determine whether the association between combat exposure and PTSD is stronger for those higher in traits for things such as emotionality, Lawson officials said.

“Our ultimate goal is to enhance the well-being of our Canadian veterans as well as their families,” Plouffe said.

“Based on the information that we get from this study, we can focus on integrating it into clinical settings, for example, so clinicians can work with their clients to foster certain coping strategies that might enhance some of the more protective traits, like resiliency… or agreeableness.”

The findings will also provide more information that can be used in the establishment of early interventions and other resources for veterans.

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