By Debbie Gregory.
Community support is often the most powerful tool for overcoming the psychological injuries of war and military service. Objective Zero, an app that should be launching later this summer intends to do just that by connecting veterans experiencing mental distress with other veterans who can talk them through it.
The name Objective Zero is a reflection of the sentiment that VA Under Secretary for Health, David J. Shulkin said in a statement: “We as a nation must focus on bringing the number of veteran suicides to zero.”
Objective Zero grew from a six hour phone conversation between Army soldier Chris Mercado and his buddy, Justin Miller. A few months after leaving the Army, Miller was considering suicide. Living in constant pain, jobless, and unable to sleep because of his terrible nightmares, Justin had reached the lowest point in his life. The conversation became an article that was published in 2015 on Medium.com. Mercado’s Georgetown classmates formed a team that researched the issue of veteran suicide and began designing the app.
It would act as a conversation platform between veterans, but also direct users to other resources and services they could pursue on their own.
Through the app, a veteran in distress can open the program, select voice, video, or text, and broadcast what Mercado calls a “distress signal” to those veterans signed up as ambassadors.
“It’s kind of like texting 10 people at the same time, saying you need help,” Mercado says.
Joining Objective Zero in their goal is Headspace, a popular subscription-based meditation app, which is offering its services at no cost to veterans registered through Objective Zero, as well as Comeback Yoga, which will make their videos available through the app.
“What we found is by increasing social connectedness among veterans, providing access to resources, and improving access to care, we can lower suicide rates,” said Mercado.
The Objective Zero team will be coordinating with the VA to help get veterans registered on the app once it’s available later in the summer.