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Members of the armed forces serve an incredibly important role in our society. They put their own lives in danger to serve their country and help people around the world. Veterans returning from deployment sometimes need extra support to adjust to civilian life. In most cases, peer support can be an invaluable tool.
What Is Peer Support?
Peer support occurs when people who have had similar experiences in their lives meet together in order to explore their shared interests and provide support for each other in achieving their goals. For veterans, peer support can be essential. Military life and service are extremely unique experiences. It can often be difficult for anyone who hasn’t served in the military to truly understand the challenges that veterans face.
People who are in need of peer support can meet together in groups or in one-on-one interactions. Sometimes group activities can be conducted by mental health professionals that can provide information and guidance. It can also be beneficial to engage in recreational activities with your peers to have fun and connect.
The purpose of peer support is to help individuals feel a genuine connection with other people. Through this connection, individuals can feel empowered to handle challenges associated with their pasts. They can also work together to help people feel empowered to achieve their goals as they move forward.
Veteran Peer Support for Overcoming Common Challenges
While veterans were on active duty, they experienced a lifestyle that many of us will never understand. Military life includes rigid expectations and schedules as well as exposure to situations that can be extremely challenging and dangerous. Therefore, when transitioning out of military life back to civilian life, they are subject to experiencing transitional challenges. Peer support can help veterans overcome these challenges.
Transitioning to Daily Life
During their service, an individual’s needs are completely dictated by and oriented around the military. It becomes a major part of their identity. Therefore, leaving the military causes major shifts in their lives. For example, their social groups are often exclusively military personnel and they might have limited contact with their friends and family members while on duty. Returning home can leave a gap in their social connections that can lead to extreme loneliness. Peer support can help ease this transition and provide relief from loneliness.
After their service is over, individuals will need to adjust to being on their own without the guidelines of the military to shape their lives. They will need to find and fulfill basic living requirements, such as housing and transportation. Further, some individuals will need to find career or schooling opportunities. Reintegrating with their friends and family is also a priority for people after military service. Peer support can be relied on for advice and to help navigate this reintegration.
Sustaining Mental and Physical Wellness
Veterans may need to make the transition to civilian life while also dealing with mental or physical health challenges. They might have physical injuries that require different therapies and treatments. It is crucial that veterans receive the treatments they need for physical health challenges they face in order to help make their transition out of the military as smooth as possible.
In addition, mental health challenges can also be a factor for veterans. Depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are among the most common challenges that are best treated with professional mental health services, such as those offered at Alter Wellness Care.
Navigating Substance Use Disorder
Unfortunately, as veterans return home and face the challenges that come with adjusting back to civilian life, they sometimes turn to alcohol and other drugs in order to cope. Substance use disorder (SUD) affects one in ten veterans, which is slightly higher than the general population. Peer support is a huge part of many programs that treat SUD. Having peer support from a veteran who is also recovering from a SUD can be extremely beneficial.
Mental Health and Peer Support
Members of the military that are adjusting to civilian life may face significant mental health challenges. However, even veterans who don’t struggle with mental health issues can benefit from peer support. Everyone needs to feel a connection with other people and develop a sense of purpose in their lives for good mental health. For veterans, these mental health foundations can be established through peer interactions.
Peer support can be useful in helping connect veterans with mental health supports that they may need. These mental health supports may include support groups and therapists that understand the unique needs and challenges that veterans experience. By helping others and normalizing the use of mental health support, peer support can increase the chances of a veteran getting the help they need.
Alter Wellness Mental Health Servies
Veterans can often benefit from having some professional mental health support as well. At Alter Wellness Care, we offer a variety of services that can help veterans as they begin to move forward with their lives. We have a variety of evidence-based resources that can help individuals deal with mental health challenges. One-on-one counseling, support groups, and intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are some of the services that we offer to help people get their mental health back on track. It is our goal to empower our clients with the tools they need to succeed.
Veterans’ experiences in the military are unique and can often cause them equally unique challenges as they adjust to a civilian lifestyle. These challenges can include mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and sometimes even issues with substance use disorder. Peer support from their fellow veterans can be an essential resource that can help them cope with the challenges they are facing. Through peer support, veterans can be empowered to utilize the resources they need to help them move forward with their lives. At Alter Wellness Care, we believe that veterans deserve the utmost respect and access to the best mental health care available. Call us at (866) 311-3510 to find out more about the resources we offer.