Marine Corps Veteran Vince Bryant has seen war and lived through some very dark times. Now as a peer support specialist, he is reaching out to his fellow Veterans.
In this unique role at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, Bryant shares his personal recovery story with Veterans while providing encouragement, offering hope and helping others achieve specific, life-related goals for recovery.
Bryant joined the Marines when he was 28. He was considered the “old man” by the young 18 and 19-year-old recruits at boot camp. In 2005, he deployed to Iraq and his experiences there would forever change him.
“The biggest injury is the injury you don’t see,” he said. “I was diagnosed with PTSD and not just PTSD, but chronic PTSD. After finding that out, I was living in denial. I didn’t even know what PTSD was. One of the hardest things was being told that I’ll never get rid of it. That I could only use tools to manage it.”
Bryant is involved in the community with various outreach programs.
Bryant served two tours in Iraq
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health issue that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event – like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident or sexual assault.
It is completely normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after this type of event. But if symptoms last more than a few months, it may be PTSD or another mental health condition.
The good news is that there are effective treatments such as trauma-focused psychotherapy (talk therapy). Certain medications can also help.
Peer support specialists assist physicians and psychotherapists who treat people struggling with mental health issues. They provide support, mentoring and other types of assistance to fellow Veterans in recovery.
Peer support selection is rigorous
The hiring and selection process for these positions is rigorous. It requires a candidate be a Veteran who has recovered or is recovering from a mental health condition. The candidate also must be certified by a non-profit entity or the state as having met all necessary criteria and training.
VA believes those who have walked the same path as those they will serve are best equipped to serve as role models for those just beginning their recovery.
Ensuring Veterans the best care is from VA
“I’ve found that talking about my experiences is absolutely therapeutic,” Bryant said. “As a Veteran, being a peer support specialist allows me to provide this same recovery opportunity to other Veterans. By being an open book, I’m reaching out to other Veterans and ensuring they get the very best possible health care from VA.”
“Reach Out” was this year’s theme for Suicide Prevention Month. The campaign focused on increasing knowledge about what Veterans and their loved ones can do now to help prevent suicide later.
It reminded Veterans that while big life moments – like transitioning from the military, starting a job, ending a relationship, or raising children – can be overwhelming, they don’t have to go through them alone.
VA emphasizes that Veteran supporters can proactively reach out to the Veterans in their lives to provide support during life challenges.
Veterans in crisis, or friends and family concerned about one, can always connect with caring, qualified responders at VA’s Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, text 838255, or www.veteranscrisisline.net.