Veteran-to-veteran help to combat mental illness: Peer Support Program showing results
Last Updated: 55 days ago
SAN DIEGO - Despite repeated efforts to get veterans struggling with mental issues to come in for help, the stigma remains, but a different approach is showing promise.
"I was carrying around so much anger that it was exhausting," said Sarah Oury, a former Army captain struggling with post-traumatic stress.
She is now counseling other veterans as part of the Department of Veterans Affairs' Peer Support Program.
"Veterans are getting the care they need instead of isolating themselves at home, and it works because the people they initially talk to are veterans who have gone through the same thing," said VA staff psychologist Christine Rufener.
Phil Clough, like so many others, tried to cope with his issues with alcohol and drugs.
"I kept a secret for nearly 30 years and it nearly killed me," said Clough. The Navy veteran said he had been a victim of military sexual trauma in the 1980s.
The peer-to-peer counseling started in January. Each counselor is certified after undergoing 80 hours of training.
"I wasted so much time and my life being angry and upset," Oury said. "I'm hoping by doing this I can speed up the healing process for other veterans."
The VA in La Jolla has 11 counselors on staff. Nationwide, there are roughly 800 with the hope of being able to hire more.
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