Project Summary

Background: Veterans reintegrating into civilian life often struggle with less-than-optimal mental health including suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. However, the military healthcare system is culturally different than a civilian system, which can be challenging to navigate, resulting in “culture shock.” Civilian mental health providers (CMHP) play a key role in providing timely and effective mental health care for veterans. Providing high-quality mental health care requires CMHPs to enhance their military cultural competency and understanding of the veterans’ reintegration process into civilian life.

Proposed Solution to the Problem: Less-than-optimal mental health can be detrimental to the well-being of veterans. Coupled with barriers when seeking health care—such as lack of culturally competent care and services, mental health stigma, trust issues, and unfamiliarity with current evidence-based treatment options—many veterans remain untreated. It is important for veterans and CMHPs to work together and break down barriers by creating a safe research-related platform that is meaningful to veterans. This involves increasing capacity by empowering veterans and CMHPs to effectively communicate and share knowledge/skills, thus fostering veteran-driven mental health PCOR/CER.

Objectives: Build capacity, knowledge, and communication competencies of veterans and CMHPs; equip Operation Red-White-Blue (O-RWB) with the skills necessary to become meaningful partners in the research enterprise—one that is culturally congruent, acceptable, and meaningful to the veteran community—from conceptualization to development to dissemination; develop a mental health research agenda for awardees and PCOR community to incorporate into decision-making settings; and assess engagement strategies based on shared governance and evaluation metrics.

Activities: O-RWB engages in capacity-building activities including developing a shared governance document, engaging in Alan Alda/Kavli and PCOR webinars, creating a veteran-centered mental health research agenda and CER questions; resulting in an O-RWB capacity-building toolkit for dissemination.

Projected Outcomes and Outputs: Increase the capacity for O-RWB to conduct veteran-centered PCOR/CER from conceptualization to development to dissemination; use the capacity developed from this award and apply the competencies, knowledge, and skills veterans and CMHPs learned to mobilize them to come together as full partners in engaged veteran-driven mental health-related PCOR/CER; develop an O-RWB toolkit for dissemination.

Patient and Stakeholder Engagement Plan: Who: Veterans, CMHPs, researchers, and clinicians make up O-RWB. How: O-RWB engages in meetings, conducts community forums, and participates in a series of capacity-building activities. How often: O-RWB engages in monthly capacity-building activities throughout the 24-month project. This project is estimated to reach upwards of 600 key community stakeholders via O-RWB.

Project Collaborators: Collaborators include veterans, CMHPs, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and Palm Beach State College Military and Veterans Student Success, FAU Colleges of Nursing & Education, the International Honor Society for Professional Counselors (Chi Sigma Iota), University of Colorado-Mental Health Counseling Department. Additionally, Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors (, the co-lead’s health research initiative for veterans, creates a potent infrastructure that supports veteran-centered mental health research.

Project Information

Ayse Torres, PhD, LMHC, CRC
Cheryl A. Krause-Parello, PhD, RN FAAN
Florida Atlantic University

Key Dates

24 months


Project Status
State State The state where the project originates, or where the primary institution or organization is located. View Glossary
Last updated: August 18, 2023