Health

Research delves into mental health of Canadian Rangers


New research aims to better understand the underlying factors that determine the mental health and wellness of Canadian Rangers in remote, isolated areas.

Samantha Ghazal, a neuroscience student at Carleton University, hopes her research will provide insight into rangers’ resiliency despite different stressors and experiences in their communities.

“They do experience a lot of stressful events,” she said.

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Canadian Rangers, a subset of the Canadian Armed Forces, operate in remote and coastal communities across the country. There are currently 5,000 people enlisted.

Their work involves missions related to national security and public safety – conducting patrols, reporting unusual activities, collecting local data, assisting in search and rescue work, and helping with natural disaster relief.

Ghazal hopes to identify why some Rangers experience better mental health than others, with the aim of implementing different strategies in communities to help.

“We do have a general understanding about some of the isolated communities and the histories and mental health that comes from that,” she said, but there is a limited amount of research specifically on Rangers. Most published articles focus on their duties and history, not their mental health.

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Ghazal’s research will be provided to the Canadian Army to identify gaps or the need for additional resources.

“I think it’s kind-of a groundbreaking thing to give us a better understanding of how they’re doing,” she said.

Mental health and suicide prevention are important and personal topics for Ghazal, who lost someone close to her through mental illness.

“I really wanted to dedicate my research to that,” she said.

Ghazal planned to visit various communities in person to speak with Canadian Rangers. The Covid-19 pandemic forced her to move her survey online.

That creates challenges. Ghazal thinks in-person work, with a chaplain present, would have helped ease some of the discomfort that comes from discussing mental health. It would also have allowed for an interpreter for conversations with people in their language.

As a result, Ghazal worries that people may be discouraged by the online survey, especially if they also do not possess adequate technology to access the internet and participate.

She can, however, mail out hard copies and provide a secure envelope for people to mail back their answers.

For her work to be statistically viable, Ghazal is seeking a minimum of 50 participants from each of the five regions in which Rangers operate, for a total of at least 250 responses.

Saying she knows mental health is a difficult topic, she has made sure a padre is accessible for those who may need it.

The voluntary survey is strictly confidential and will not affect anyone’s standing within the Canadian Rangers, as Ghazal will collect neither names nor contact information.

“I really want to make the point that they can answer the questions freely and that it’s not going to impact their careers in any way,” she said.

Canadian Rangers interested in taking the study can contact Samantha at samantha.ghazal@forces.gc.ca.

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