Online counseling helps vets readjust to civilian life

A former Navy pilot and Army sergeant team up to create Vets Prevail, a free online screening and counseling program to help veterans transition to life back home.

Vets Prevail is a free, evidence-based, drug-free intervention for vets who may be struggling with depression or PTSD. Screenshot by Elizabeth Armstrong Moore/CNET

Some 5 million veterans in the US are estimated to be suffering from depression, according to the National Science Foundation, and that doesn't take into account the full range of behavioral health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, general anxiety, and drug abuse.

So a few years back the NSF teamed up with former Navy pilot Rich Gengler and former Army sergeant Justin Savage to launch a free online screening and counseling program called Vets Prevail in an attempt to help veterans transition to life back home. Now, the NSF said the approach is working, with the group reporting a 99.76 percent user satisfaction rate and 98.3 percent efficacy in lowering clinical measures among the 16,000-plus veterans who've gone through the program since its inception three years ago.

The web-based tool is designed specifically for veterans who might prefer to get help anonymously, without face-to-face contact, or simply from the comfort of their own homes. It's a drug-free, evidence-based intervention program for depression or PTSD that involves completing a profile assessment and engaging in online chats with "veteran peer coaches," as well as joining an online community of vets battling similar issues. And not only is it free, but the program incentivizes participation by offering gifts cards to places like Amazon.com.

"You've had enough death by PowerPoint," the Web site proclaims. "Welcome to a different approach."

One study out of the Pentagon found that Iraq and Afghanistan vets are particularly haunted by "daunting and growing mental health problems," with almost one in three reporting symptoms of mental illness upon return from combat. In fact, in one poll of 4,000 of the roughly 2.2 million who have been deployed to those regions, one in three have reported contemplating suicide.

Good news for the many veterans who continue to return from combat, as well as their families, that -- according to the folks at Vets Prevail -- 89 percent of users would "absolutely recommend" the program to fellow servicemen and women. You can watch the NSF's "special report" on the program below:

Update, September 18 at 2:30 p.m. PT: The group reported a 99.76 percent user satisfaction rate and 98.3 percent efficacy in lowering clinical measures among the 16,000-plus veterans who've gone through the program over the past three years.

 

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