UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The mask of stoicism : intersections of masculinities and storytelling in trauma work with Veterans Shields, Duncan MacArthur


An estimated 15 to 30 percent of Canada’s approximately 811,000 Veterans and serving military personnel are expected to experience posttraumatic stress injuries either immediately or even years after their deployment (VAC, 2013; DND, 2013). When Veterans’ traumatic stress injuries are not addressed through well-integrated interventions, stress reactions can contribute to the emergence of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and associated difficulties such as substance abuse, increased aggression, relationship problems, depression, and suicide (Herman, 1997; Westwood et al., 2012). Males, who make up 88% of the Veteran population, experience these difficulties at proportionally higher rates than their female compatriots, and also have significantly lower usage rates for trauma therapies, and higher relapse rates and drop-out rates when they do access treatment (Brooks, 2010; van der Kolk, 2007; Westwood et al., 2012). While the key role of gender socialization in women’s experience and recovery from trauma has been extensively studied, there has been little attention paid to male social norms and expectations in Veterans’ psychological and physiological experience of trauma and the process of treatment and recovery (Brooks, 2010; Fox & Pease, 2012). The objective of this research was to “cast the net wide” to gain greater understanding of Veterans’ trauma experiences without reducing their uniqueness, their complexity, and their “embeddedness” and interaction with their contexts. By examining case examples from a cohort of male Veteran participants in a group trauma program, the UBC/Legion Veterans Transition Program (VTP), using interview, focus group and personal writings, and examples of cultural “master narratives”, it was hoped that a more coherent clinical picture would emerge of the relevance and impact of gender socialization on men’s trauma experience and their recovery and re-engagement in community. This research suggests that a gender informed approach to Veterans’ trauma work could contribute to more accessible, relevant and effective trauma treatment that respects male Veterans’ existing courageous and agentic helping and healing efforts.

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