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App Creators Hope to Help Veterans through Peer Support

objective zero

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.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Vets4Warriors Offers Support to Those Who Serve, Past and Present

vets4warriors1

By Debbie Gregory.

A new national help hotline, Vets4Warriors, was recently created. Vets4Warriors, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit, offers a 24/7 helpline, a veteran benefit in partnership with Rutgers University Behavioral Health Center (RUBHC).

The all-veteran call center, with specially chosen Peer Advisors, answer calls in seconds, listen and support you, every hour of every day, 24/7. Not only are the services confidential, anonymous, and stigma-free, they are also thorough. There is follow-up to ensure that all callers have their needs met.

There is no reporting or information shared with service branches or units, and there is no length limit of peer support involved in this veteran benefit.

The Peer Advisors are trained in the Best Practice Model “Reciprocal Peer Support” developed at RUBHC 18 years ago. Their initial 80 hours of training is supplemented by on-going continuing education, as well as receiving support by licensed mental health clinicians.

Support by veterans is available for active duty, National Guard and Reserve service members, veterans, retirees, and their families/caregivers at 855 838-8255.

For those serving outside the United States, help is still available by either calling the Global DSN Operator at: DSN 312-560-1110 or Commercial (719) 567-1110. There is also a live chat feature available on the website and provide a phone number. A peer will call you back.

If you need help now, these veteran resources are available by calling the Vets4Warriors National Help Hotline at (855) 838-8255 or visiting the Vets4Warriors website.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.