Originally from the war-torn country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ms Suzana Freegard has seen firsthand the trauma and distress war and conflict has on people and is determined to help our servicemen and women through The Road Home’s Invictus Pathways Scholarship.
With a background of psychology and an interest in the effects of exercise on mental health, Ms Freegard is the successful recipient of The Road Home’s first Invictus Pathways Scholarship PhD in collaboration with the University of South Australia (UniSA).
She will follow the journey our wounded veterans’ take in preparation for the 2018 Invictus Games held in Sydney producing research findings that will aid in their long-term recovery.
“What impacted me to apply for this scholarship were the stories of veterans who have competed in the Games. I found what they had to face and were going through very moving and inspirational,” Ms Freegard said.
The Invictus Games, founded by Prince Harry, is an international adaptive multi-sport event designed for wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to aid their mental health from their silent or physical injuries of war.
As part of the scholarship, Ms Freegard will document the journey our athletes will take preparing for the Games and travel to Sydney in 2018 to experience firsthand the impact the Invictus Games has on our servicemen and women.
“I feel very privileged to be researching such an important area of mental health and wellbeing for our injured servicemen and women and I believe there will be positive outcomes from my research,” Ms Freegard said.
Having recently commenced this three-year scholarship, Ms Freegard already has some ideas on how she will conduct this world-first research.
“I plan on closely following the participants from when they enrol in the Program and note any changes they go through while training and qualifying for the Games as well as how they feel before, during and after the Games. I will also be interviewing family members and loved ones in regards to any differences that they notice in the veterans,” Ms Freegard said.
“Once the Games finish and training ends I will be looking at what can be done to maintain that momentum they would have gained from the Games. Ideally, we would want any benefits and positive changes resulting from participating in the Invictus Pathways Program and Invictus Games to be lasting and carried through permanently in the veterans’ everyday lives.”
Thanks to your support, The Road Home along with UniSA is able to fund vital research into the health and wellbeing of our wounded veterans. At the end of the three years, Ms Freegard is hoping to develop evidence-based program guidelines based on her research on what will work best for our veterans and their wellbeing.
“Whatever I do in life, I want to be able to contribute and help those suffering to feel better. This research scholarship is allowing me to do that and I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of veterans’ journey towards recovery.