HALIFAX -- New research into the mental health effects of exposure to child soldiers is underway at Dalhousie University.

"I am pleased to announce the Dallaire Institute has been awarded more than $1 million from the Veterans Family and Well-being Fund," Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay said Tuesday at a news conference.

The money will support a new five-year study that examines the mental health of Canadian military members and their families.

"This research project will be the first of its kind," said Dallaire Institute executive director Shelly Whitman. "There are no studies that have existed in any countries around the world."

Whitman added, the primary focus of the research would be on moral injuries suffered by those exposed to child soldiers in zones of conflict. Research will support new levels of academic study, care and support for members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Whitman said many Canadians understand in theatres of war child soldiers are deployed. However, she added, they often do not fully comprehend the connection to Canadians who serve those countries.

"This project is also going to be innovative in the collaboration between mental health professionals, academic researchers, practitioners in the field and child protection and those involved in security sector reform," said Whitman.

The study will also examine the impact on gender -- and how the experience is sometimes different for men and women military personnel.

"That's my main focus right now, is the sustainment of this mission," said Dallaire who is the founder of the institute the bears his name. "We are not going to eliminate child soldiers overnight. This effort has to continue extensively."

Dallaire said today's announcement was a major step forward to work towards the prevention of children being recruited into conflict. He added, research and training combined with advocacy should help change the philosophy of international war while supporting Canadian soldiers.