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A new program at Newton’s Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology is encouraging veterans to pursue careers in psychology, therapy and other mental health-related careers, The Boston Globe reported. Trey Tippens, an Army veteran, is leading up the initiative, which is called Train Vets to Treat Vets.
The program’s $250,000 budget has been funded by the state for two years. The program pays Tippens, along with other psychology students, to visit veteran student groups on college campuses. The participants then talk to the vets about careers in mental health services.
The school is also developing a military psychology degree, which it hopes to unveil this fall. Course planners take feedback from Tippens, other psychology students and other veterans on which coursework should be implemented in the program. The degree will focus not only on veterans’ mental health issues, but also those of military spouses and family members, who often suffer along with vets and have just as much knowledge about military sacrifices and veterans benefits.
“Veterans just feel more comfortable talking to fellow veterans,” state secretary of Veterans Services Coleman Nee told the source. “If we want to acclimate people back to civilian culture, you’re going to have to use veterans to do that. You’re going to have to use veterans who have the skills and the training and the background to counsel these folks.”
Currently, veterans have alarmingly high suicide and depression rates, which many attribute to the surreal nature of military life in Iraq and Afghanistan. Other veterans advocates have pointed to the fact that the veteran community is becoming an increasingly small one: According to a 2011 Pew Research Center report, less than one half of 1 percent of Americans are serving on active duty at any given time. Many have said that this small percentage makes vets feel alone, and makes it difficult to reach out to other veterans in their area.
There are a lot of reasons why it makes sense for veterans to council vets. The source reported that the military community has its own slang and language, the rhetoric of which non-military therapists and psychologists don’t always understand. The images and experiences that military servicemembers go through while on active duty are often foreign to civilians, too.
“Being deployed?—?it’s just weird, from top to bottom,” 28-year-old veteran Evan Bick said. “It’s weird in a lot of ways, and some of those ways are pathological.”
Bick and Tippens also made another important point: Encouraging vets to pursue mental health career can help lower the stigma of mental illness in the veteran community.