Arming Soldiers with Resilience

» Shaun Turner

“(At Tyndale) I’m learning how to teach spiritual practices to soldiers so they can be used to get them through difficult events.” – Shaun Turner

Many Canadian soldiers and their families today face the challenge and deep pain of complex mental health issues. One in six full-time members of the Canadian Armed Forces reported symptoms of major depressive episodes, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addiction or other serious issues, according to a recent study.

Shaun Turner [DMin Cand. – Spiritual Formation] is a Major (Vice Captain) in the Canadian Armed Forces and a former frontline chaplain. He is breaking new ground in helping find new ways for soldiers to heal. The research he is conducting at Tyndale, coupled with his many years of experience supporting soldiers and their families, caught the attention of his chain of command. Shaun has been invited to the table to help shape doctrine around the topic of resilience for the Canadian Armed Forces Chaplain Service.

Currently, the Army provides treatment-focused care to soldiers after they have experienced trauma. But what if they found a way to pre-emptively treat stress disorders?

“If a soldier has PTSD, we can usually point to the minute or the second it first occurred. It’s an event. The Army is very good at providing treatment afterwards,” says Shaun. “But what science is now telling us is we can actually prepare a soldier for such an event, and the more preparation we do the easier it is to reduce the hurt the solider experiences afterwards.”

Shaun says the military is learning to invest more in resilience. “One of the really neat things is that spirituality is recognized as one of the five pillars of resilience,” he says. Through an individual learning plan, the military is paying for him to study the relationship between spirituality and resilience at Tyndale. “I’m learning how to teach spiritual practices to soldiers so they can be used to get them through difficult events,” he says.

“Soldiers are never going to be bulletproof,” says Shaun. “But we can train them to be resilient.”