Veterans Affairs tagged posts

How We Can Support Veterans in Need of Mental Health Help

Care for Your Mind acknowledges and appreciates the collaboration of the National Network of Depression Centers in developing this series.

Sanjai Rao, M.D., VA Medical Center, San Diego

In my previous post, I addressed the challenging state of mental health care for our nation’s returning veterans and their increased risk of suicide. It’s crucial that we step up and ensure that mental health care is available to all former servicemen and women who need it. Now, I propose some possible solutions.

First, a disclaimer: although I work for the VA, I am writing this post as a private citizen, not a VA employee. The views expressed here are entirely my own and not in any way meant to be reflective of those of VA leadership.

Expanding the VA
In order to ensure the best possible outcomes for veterans in need, the VA needs to grow. With more resources, we can hire and train more mental health professionals, and therefore treat more patients. As I discussed earlier, the VA is by far the best place for veterans to get state-of-the art, evidence-based mental health care, but the VA system doesn’t have the capacity to treat everyone as quickly as they need. We do the best we can with what we have, but ultimately Congress regulates our size and budget. It’s up to our elected officials to provide the funding we need to increase our capacity.

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Congress Shines a Spotlight on the Value of Peer Specialists

Several years after the end of the U.S. Civil War, Decoration Day was established by a group of Union Veterans who planted flowers on the graves of Union soldiers. In that same year a ceremony was held at what is now Arlington National Cemetery. Flowers were distributed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers.

These ceremonies honoring fallen service members eventually became the modern Memorial Day. Though, many people believe that Memorial Day is a day to honor only active-duty service members who died on the battlefield, it is broader than that. There is no limitation on where that battlefield is or what it looks like: service members and Veterans continue to fight life-threatening battles every day right here on U.S. soil.

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Veterans Supporting Veterans Through Innovative Veteran “X” Program

Thomas E. Pratt, CPSS and David B. Shaw, Ph.D.

Veteran “X” is a peer-led mental health recovery program in which the participants serve as the treatment team for a fictitious Veteran “X”. Veteran “X” has a number of social barriers that are similar to those faced by the group’s participants. While empowering Veteran “X” to solve issues, the participants gain valuable recovery skills and factual information to resolve their own concerns.

Veteran “X” was established at the Hampton (Virginia) VA Medical Center in 2009 and, since its inception, the program has helped more than 1,800 Veterans in the Hampton Roads area. In addition to helping Veterans locally, Hampton’s Veteran “X” program has developed a national training program for Veteran “X” facilitators. Sixteen Peer Support Specialists have become certified Veteran “X” facilitators and 24 programs have been established at VA medical facilities nationwide.

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Why I’ve Chosen the Rewarding Profession of Certified Peer Specialist

Care For Your Mind wraps up the series on peer support services this week with a post from Olga Wuerz, a certified peer specialist, WOC (Without Compensation) who shares first-hand the value of including peer support services as an integral part of the mental health care delivery team at VA hospitals and centers.

Why I’ve Chosen the Rewarding Profession of Certified Peer Specialist
Olga Wuerz, Certified Peer Specialist, WOC and President of the Dallas VA Mental Health Veterans Advocacy Council

I started working on the Acute In-Patient unit at the Dallas VA Hospital about 8 years ago...

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Congressional Briefing Informs on the Value of Peer Support Services

“Peer support services work because we instill hope.” That’s the message from Olga Wuerz, an army veteran and certified peer specialist, during a congressional briefing held today by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).

Echoing that message, DBSA president Allen Doederlein shared that by instilling hope through positive self-disclosure, peer support specialists can influence the path to recovery and wellness for individuals living with a mental health condition...

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Despite VA Benefits and Disability Coverage, Jennifer Struggles to Get the Care She Needs

Although Jennifer remembers “just not feeling right” in high school and telling a teacher that she wanted to die, she wasn’t diagnosed with major depression until she was nearly 30. An unrelated medical disability required her release from the Navy, and a car accident shortly thereafter further complicated Jennifer’s physical health and depression. In constant pain, she often wondered if her life would ever get better. At a couple of dark points, the possibility of taking her life became a concern. Jennifer sought emergency help at the VA and was hospitalized in the psychiatric ward.

“I was the only female up there,” Jennifer recalls. She describes the situation as “scary” for a woman, grouped with men whose issues run the gamut from alcohol abuse to serious mental illness. For those in the VA hospital’s psychiatric ward, she says, “They don’t have separate treatment.”

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Coaching Into Care—VA Mental Health Coaching Service for Family and Friends of Veterans

steven_johnBy Steven Sayers, Ph.D. and John DeVincent, Psy.D.

This Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving Day, Coaching Into Care (CIC) would like to recognize that our country’s Service Members and Veterans have given much to our country. Their families have also served and sacrificed by supporting them, caring for family when they were deployed, and helping them start new lives when they leave active duty. We are grateful for their courage and strength.

Recognizing the role of the family
Family members play an important role in supporting Veterans when they are in need of help, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has resources to assist them through an innovative program called Coaching Into Care (CIC). Celebrating its third year, this free and confidential VA helpline helps callers discover new ways to talk with a Veteran about their concerns and treatment options. The program’s mission is to educate, support, and empower family members and friends who are seeking care or services for a Veteran, with an end goal of encouraging distressed Veterans to successfully access VA care anywhere in the United States.

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Coaching Into Care: VA Coaches Help Supporters of Veterans Make the Tough Decision to Get Help

Amber Walser, Psy.D.

According to The Department of Veterans Affairs, nearly 30 percent of Veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 who have been treated at V.A. hospitals and clinics have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Read about an innovative VA program that assists loved ones and friends who want to learn how to better support the Veteran in their life and encourage him or her to seek professional support.

Providing tools to support veterans
Judy, the girlfriend of an Army Veteran, called Coaching Into Care (CIC) with concerns about the combat stress and alcohol misuse her boyfriend was experiencing and the toll it was taking on their relationship. Her boyfriend would acknowledge the need for treatment but wouldn’t follow through, and they were quickly growing apart. A CIC call responder provided support and education about combat stress and encouraged Judy to take things slowly rather than to fix everything right away. Then, the call responder prepared Judy for the coaching process, which would connect Judy with a psychologist or social worker with whom she would speak over the phone during the coming weeks or months.

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