By TYLER MASK
On Friday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2399 in Mineral Wells put on their third annual North Texas Health Fair.
Free medical services including cholesterol checks, blood sugar checks, blood pressure checks and more were provided.
Beyond just medical services, many local healthcare professionals were present to inform veterans of some of the benefits they can receive for having served their country.
“There’s a lot of different things that these veterans don’t know,” VFW Service Officer Lee B. Downs said. “So, we are bringing the information to them.”
Pecan Valley Centers for Behavioral and Developmental Disorders HealthCare was one of the professional initiatives present. One of their main goals at the fair was to raise awareness about local services provided for veterans battling various mental and emotional conditions that can come from war. Among the services showcased at the event was support groups.
“[Support groups] are peer-to-peer,” PVC Veteran Services Coordinator Robin Greer said. “It is veterans conducting support groups for other veterans,”
According to Greer, the support groups, although peer-to-peer, are well-thought-out and consist of trained volunteers who facilitate the sessions.
Greer stressed the fact that the trained peers are not counselors, they simply facilitate. And despite some social stigmas regarding support programs, the support groups PVC is involved with don’t require individuals to put themselves in the spotlight – although they do offer large support groups as well.
“With the peer support groups, if you have two or more people together discussing the same topic, that’s considered a group,” Greer said. “If a veteran has issues and they don’t really want to go sit in front of [a crowd] – [For instance], they [envision Alcohol Anonymous] meetings where they get in front of 15 people and have to say ‘I am an alcoholic’ – it is not like that at all. They can sit down one-on-one with a peer who has been through the same experiences that they have and talk about [them].”
Greer said before she signed on in December, PVC was not even aware of the local support groups in Mineral Wells. Greer implied if PVC didn’t realize this, there may be countless veterans unaware of this particular service.
Currently, Mineral Wells is home to two support groups, but Greer desires to see these groups grow throughout the entire area.
“I am wanting to get something going [in] the
[Possum Kingdom] area, [and] if needed, the Palo Pinto area,” Greer said. “I have already got a support group going in Lipan. My responsibility is all of Parker, Palo Pinto, Somervell, Hood, Erath and Johnson counties.”
Two of the conditions Greer mentioned that participants in the peer groups deal with were Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is an emotional issue, and Traumatic Brain Injury, which is a physical issue.
“Traumatic Brain Injury is the equivalent to Shaken Baby Syndrome in an adult,” Greer said. “A lot of the symptoms of TBI and PTSD mimic each other.
“So, now they have discovered a lot of these veterans don’t have PTSD, they have TBI. And the treatments are different because one is physical and one is emotional. There are some veterans who have both.”
Although there are treatments for both of these conditions, there are no actual cures Greer said.
“There are ways you can learn to cope,” Greer said. “For many years [veterans] coped through alcohol. They continue to cope through drugs and alcohol, and it just intensifies the mental health issue.
“My program is [here to] say, ‘Hey, you don’t need to go to the bottle, because we have this wonderful program.’ You’re not going to be talking to some doctor that’s clueless, you’re going to be talking to one of your peers. They’ve been there. They’ve experienced the same thing you have.
“When you have a problem, the best way to deal with it is [to] talk it through. Once you can talk it through, you can begin to rationalize [your problem], and once you start to rationalize it, then you can develop ways of coping and dealing with that issue besides turning to the bottle, getting in fights, or isolating yourself.”
Greer went on to say that all people react differently to their conditions. Some may become very outgoing and partake in risky behavior, while others may shut themselves off from the world.
No matter how a veteran copes with trauma, there are peers out there who have gone through the same things and want to help.
Help doesn’t stop there. Some other key PVC veterans service programs include:
• Information and referral.
• 24-hour crisis and intervention services.
• Diagnostic assessment.
• Counseling services.
• Client and family mental health education.
• Service coordination.
For more information about PVC’s veteran service programs, log on to www.pecanvalley.org.
To find out more about how to become a peer-to-peer facilitator, contact 817-579-4489.