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Vets4Warriors uses award-winning peer support model to help veteran and military community

You pick up the phone, and within 30 seconds there is a caring Vets4Warriors peer on the line, ready and eager to help find solutions to your challenges. There are various ways to contact one of our peers, including: call, text, email and chat. We want to help you through your journey, and get you to a place in life where you can look back and say, “I made it!”

All of this wouldn’t be possible without our use of the Reciprocal Peer Support (RPS) program, which is an award-winning model that provides support and addresses mental health crises among not just veterans, but also police officers, mothers of children with special needs and others. This groundbreaking model allows those experiencing a mental health crisis to contact a peer support specialist with a similar background. That means when you call Vets4Warriors, you will be connected with a veteran or a member of the military community with shared experiences.

Vets4Warriors practices this model daily at our national home in the Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care (RUBHC) center in Piscataway, New Jersey. There are 13 other exceptional peer support programs that use the RPS program, including COP2COP, Mom2Mom, Vet2Vet and Care2Caregivers. According to RUBHC program director Cherie Castellano, “These days, everyone can search the Web for referral options and access information. Our callers are looking for something more. They need to know that they are not alone and that seeking help is a viable option.”

When someone contacts one of these organizations, including Vets4Warriors, they are immediately put in touch with a trained peer who gathers information about them while performing a suicide risk assessment. Establishing a relationship with the caller is a top priority for the RPS model, which is referred to as “pure presence.” When speaking with a peer, the goal is for the caller to feel comfortable in a judgement-free zone, avoid “preaching,” and to experience catharsis through shared experiences, regardless of whether they’re positive or negative. According to this American Psychiatric Association article, “The quality of the connection is largely dependent on the peer supporter’s ability to utilize empathy, active listening skills, and direct and indirect communication.”

If appropriate during the call, the peer support specialist can pivot to a case management role, providing the caller with long-term support. This is why, at Vets4Warriors, we will continue to follow-up with you after your initial call until we help find a solution to your challenges.

The RPS model has proven to be successful among the various organizations who use it when it comes to providing support and addressing mental health crises, which is why it was selected to receive the 2018 APA Psychiatric Services Achievement Silver Award.

Vets4Warriors is a peer support line, not a crisis support line. Those struggling with suicidal thoughts should call the veterans crisis hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) ext. 1, or the National Suicide Prevention Line 1-800-272-8255. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.