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 (http://www.nursing.fau.edu/c-paww), the co-lead’s health research initiative for veterans, creates a potent infrastructure that supports veteran-centered mental health research.