5W Wednesday: Buddy-to-Buddy Volunteer Veteran Program

Our 5W Wednesday series highlights a variety of health care organizations, professionals and programs that keep our community healthy.

What is Buddy to Buddy?
The Buddy-to-Buddy Volunteer Veteran Program is a peer-to-peer outreach program developed at U-M with Michigan Army National Guard and Michigan State University. The program, supported by the U-M Depression Center,  is part of Military
Support Programs and Networks (M-SPAN), which are dedicated to military mental health and include innovative approaches to outreach, overcoming stigma, and the design and delivery of programs for military families.  The program’s aim is to provide support to citizen soldiers, who prepare for deployment on a part-time basis while still meeting obligations to family and community. Returning service members who take part in the Buddy-to-Buddy program are matched with a veteran who is trained to help them find resources for a variety of readjustment issues, such as financial benefits, educational goals, emotional challenges, substance abuse, and legal or job issues. This program is free and confidential.

Why was this program created?
More than 1.7 million military veterans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.  Many of these veterans face serious challenges upon their return home when adjusting to life outside the military community. More than 300,000 have co-occurring PTSD, depression, substance abuse, and TBI and are at growing risk for suicide (“Welcome Back Veterans”, n.d.). Upon their return from deployment, citizen soldiers are thrust back into a community that does not understand the issues soldiers face and may have limited resources to address known concerns.  The Buddy-to-Buddy Volunteer Veteran program was created because no one is a better source of support than a veteran who’s been there.

The Buddy-to-Buddy program was designed to address the many challenges citizen soldiers and Reservists may encounter throughout the deployment cycle. “Behind the Buddy-to-Buddy program is a simple concept: Military service is unlike any other human experience. No one knows more about the issues facing a soldier – in combat or on the home front – than a fellow soldier,” (“Buddy-to-Buddy Volunteer Veteran Program,” n.d.).

Who is the program for, and who are the volunteers?
Anyone can call the Buddy-to-Buddy Volunteer Veteran program. Michigan OEF/OIF Service members and veterans can call the program directly. Others can call to refer a Michigan OEF/OIF Service member who might benefit. Buddy-to-Buddy provides services to Michigan OEF/OIF/OND Veterans, members of the Michigan Army National Guard, and reservists residing in Michigan.

Buddy-to-buddy volunteers are veterans with a passion for helping fellow veterans. If you have this passion, are a good communicator, and are willing to donate your time to an amazing cause, the Buddy-to-Buddy Volunteer Veteran program is looking for you. Visit this link for more information about volunteering.

When do returning veterans receive help?
In the first tier of the program, mentor soldiers in the unit are trained to provide peer support to six or seven mentee soldiers who call to enroll in the program or are contacted after someone refers them. Buddy-to-Buddy also has a second tier of veterans who visit military armories once a month to provide assistance in person and by telephone to soldiers as they return. (U-M Depression Center Update, 2010.)

Where do I go if I’m a veteran needing help?
If you or a service member you know needs help, call the Buddy-to-Buddy Volunteer Veteran program at 1-888-82-BUDDY (1-888-822-8339).

If you are a veteran in emotional distress or thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). If this is an emergency, call 911.

For more information about the Buddy-to-Buddy program, visit buddytobuddy.org, call 1-888-822-8339, or send an email to buddytobuddyVVP@umich.edu.

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