A Caring Navigator for Veterans’ Families
By Hans Petersen
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
If the Veteran in your family was having serious problems, what would you do? Where would you go?
Julie contacted VA’s Coaching Into Care program. “They saved my son’s life.” And her son’s life had spiraled so out of control he was on a tenth floor balcony ready to jump.
Today, he is better and Julie says, “There is not enough praise in the world for VA’s Coaching Into Care program.”
“Without her, we would have been lost…”
Her Marine son drove a Humvee in Iraq, taking teams out to disable IEDs. He suffered spinal injuries in an explosion and is 70 percent disabled. Back home, he became addicted to the opioids he was taking for pain and smoking the synthetic marijuana Spice every day added to his mental health complications.
Many families struggle with their problems in the privacy of their home. That was not case with Julie’s son when he threatened to jump from a tenth floor balcony – on the day before his wedding – resulting in multiple law enforcement responses. For her, it was “an absolute nightmare scenario.”
Julie has written an honest and dramatic account of the incident. She recalls “Locking eyes with her husband” and wondering “How did we get here?”
When she called VA’s Crisis Line, she was referred to Coaching Into Care, a telephone service that provides assistance to family members and friends trying to encourage their Veteran to seek health care for possible readjustment and mental health issues. It’s a national phone service that helps to link Veterans with services available in their own communities.
Julie remembers, “The incredible woman I worked with was Dr. Cindy Swinkels. She explained how vital the family connection was and to keep that communication going so that we could ease our way into helping my son. Without her, we would have been lost and in all probability my son would be dead.
“VA has amazing, caring people who guided me to where I needed to be. I am learning how to be the mother of an adult in this strange new land where all the rules are different.” Julie was able to work with her son to help him make the choice to engage in treatment.
When a Veteran comes home, or their military service comes to an end, their support shifts from military comrades and superiors to family members and close friends. Frequently it is friends and family who are first to notice their Veteran having a tough time adjusting. If you haven’t served in the military yourself, it can be hard to know how to help, what to say, how to reach out.
If you think your Veteran friend or family member is having a difficult time and could benefit from readjustment counseling or mental health care, please utilize the Coaching Into Care service: call 1-888-823-7458 or email CoachingIntoCare@va.gov.
Julie adds, “I am honored to share my son’s story and hope it will help others struggling for help with their loved ones. Now, my son’s friends and family are on the same loving page and VA has guided me into a plan to help my son through his recovery. There is hope.”