Mental Health Professionals recognize there is a wide choice of next steps after Face2Face technology has mapped the emotional footprint of their patients. Once they have helped the veteran or military family member recognize that they are suffering, then what? Willingness to find the right treatment modality or modalities on the part of the clinician is particularly important when the patient may not have the will or drive to help themselves.
In the United States there are over 400,000 Veterans Service Organizations, most of which have been founded in response to the millions of veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and then returned home to civilian life. Naturally some are better than others, and there are navigational tools, both digital and hard copy to assist in determining which is most appropriate for an individual. But the important point is that they offer a wide variety of resources at all levels, from federal agency sponsored research centers and community outreach to small not for profit organizations focusing on one or two aspects of a veteran's successful transition, and from weekend couples retreats for military service members and their spouses, to online communities using social media to organize platoons of "battle buddies" for mutual support and advice.
Along the way some lessons have been learned that we at Future Life think significant when conceiving of the "Big Picture" when it comes to advocacy, healing, community outreach and communication:
Public policy and private charity need to be crafted around population norms while retaining flexibility to address those veterans with exceptionally bad outcomes for reasons outside of their control
Understanding the difference between the medical model of "disability" and the social model of "disability".
Understanding that people value those things for which they strive and tend to devalue those things that are given to them. A good example is the importance of work or a new "mission" in order to lead a meaningful life after combat. The old saying about "Giving a man a fish versus teaching him how to fish" applies here.
Poorly designed assistance for veterans, government or charitable, can hurt and disable the intended beneficiary.
View veterans as resources, not damaged goods and prioritize their needs.
Holistic approaches treating mind, body, spirit and taking into account the impact of war on family members as well as individual veterans work best.
We assert that war is both archetypal and wounding of everyone it touches. It changes every part of us--body, mind, heart, soul, spirit, relationships and communities. We believe that invisible wounds of military service such as PTSD are not a failure of character but proof of warrior's mortality and humanity.
The key concept of the We Serve Program, Vet Chats, is that active duty military, veterans and military family members are brought together in a space such as a church or other community and/or sacred space. These venues permit a deeper reflection on the personal element of healing and remind all participants of the presence of spirit and order of a higher power. Veterans have always banded together and formed organizations to support, educate and serve veterans and their families. In generations past, it was not uncommon to find these outposts in churches and other venues across the nation and the unspoken welcome was palatable. But today these places have become less-effective in reaching out to younger veterans.
Vet Chats will restore the bonding and camaraderie between fellow soldiers that comes from sitting at a common table and sharing stories along with the feeling of support from their squadron or platoon. The therapeutic benefits inherent in these types of gatherings which will include military family members will again be on offer to our youngest generation of warriors.