Just like getting enough sleep or drinking plenty of water, connecting with others plays an important role in physical and mental health. But it’s sometimes hard to find people who understand your experiences or have had similar experiences.
Getting Veterans and their supporters together regularly – whether for a chat over food, a bowling night or volunteer activity – can build social connections and improve attendees’ mental well-being
VOICES events are designed to foster interpersonal connections and social support among community members, including Veterans of all ages and service branches. Developed with input from Veterans, the Quick Start Guide provides helpful information for anyone interested in starting a community-based social event with Veterans in their area.
VOICES began with weekly meetings between VA peer specialists and a group of Veterans at Bedford VA in Bedford, Massachusetts. They spread to over 25 communities in Massachusetts and other VA facilities and Veterans organizations. They work together to increase not just their own social connection to their community but to also create a sustainable system of social support with other Veterans.
As VOICES events grew in popularity and were replicated in other states, they expanded beyond weekly gatherings, with new social groups forming around other activities, like barbecues, coffee meets, recreation and community service.
At VOICES events, Veterans have discovered helpful information about benefits and services in and around their community. And they’ve chatted with others with similar life experiences. Many have formed bonds and lasting friendships.
The Quick Start Guide provides a good starting point for creating VOICES events. It tailors them to Veteran’s preferences and needs. Hosts are encouraged to gather input about their wishes and goals for the VOICES events.
All VOICES events bring Veterans together in a public setting. There is no formal agenda or format for the meetings to follow. By remaining informal, VOICES events provide a space where attendees can relax, have fun and get to know one another.
Although VA is here to support these weekly gatherings, members of the community organize and operate the events.
Take the next step
VA wants to make it as easy as possible for anyone interested in starting a VOICES event. If you are a Veteran, part of Veteran-centric organization or a community member interested in starting a group in your area, download the Quick Start Guide and other materials to help you find answers to these common questions:
- How do I find local Veterans?
- When and where should I schedule VOICES events?
- What should I do to prepare for a VOICES event?
- How should I communicate with group attendees?
- If you’re a Veteran looking for support, reach out to the Vet Center Call Center confidentially 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 877-927-8387. Use the VA facility locator tool to find a Vet Center location near you.
- If you or a Veteran you know is in crisis, contact the Veterans Crisis Line, available 24/7. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at net/Chat.
- To find resources for service members, Veterans and their family members and caregivers, explore the National Resource Directory.