By Debbie Gregory.
It’s long been referred to as a band of brothers, and more recently, a band of brothers and sisters. While not related by blood, the same concept remains: watch out for each other. It’s a kinship that’s often forged under the worst of circumstances.
For that reason, veteran organizations are encouraging veterans to build trusting relationships and support each other. That’s why the VA offers employment to veterans as peer specialists.
A Peer Specialist is a person with a mental health and/or co-occurring condition, who has been trained and certified to help others with these conditions, identify and achieve specific life and recovery goals.
A Peer Specialist is a person who is actively engaged in his/her own recovery, and who volunteers or is hired to provide peer support services to others engaged in mental health treatment.
Veterans are a natural resource when it comes to supporting fellow veterans in need. That’s not to say that civilian care for veterans isn’t valuable as well. But there’s something to be said for walking in another’s shoes. Understanding the unique culture shared by military members and their families can be a daunting task for Americans who have not experienced the military lifestyle.
Post-traumatic stress disease (PTSD) is a major concern, as it can lead to a host of other issues, including alcohol abuse, drug abuse, homelessness, unemployment, violence, and even suicide.
Veteran peer support shows promise in addressing mental health issues.
Given the large numbers of veterans returning from multiple deployments, the value of incorporating veteran peers into health care teams makes perfect sense, especially when you consider other factors such as a shortage of trained behavioral health providers, long wait times for treatment, and stigma felt by veterans regarding seeking help.
Although civilians can never truly understand what war is like, we can honor all veterans by ensuring that we as a society do what we can to help them achieve the American Dream.