By SONJA BATTEN, PH.D
The strengths of veterans, their courage, determination, and camaraderie make them especially well equipped to work through and overcome the challenges that we all face in life. Leveraging these strengths and sharing their experiences with other veterans is at the heart of Make the Connection, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ campaign in service to veterans and their loved ones.
For the past eight months, the Make the Connection website has made it possible for veterans and their loved ones to hear directly from people like them who faced challenges and found support to live healthier lives. The website has attracted almost a million visits, and the video stories of recovery and resilience have been watched more than 2 million times. Now, Make the Connection has joined the social media sphere, and veterans, their friends and Families, and people across the nation are responding. In just over four weeks, Make the Connection’s Facebook page has become the fastest growing community in the government/military space to date, reaching well over 250,000 ‘likes.’ You can help spread the important message that services and treatment are available and can make a difference in the lives of veterans and their Families.
Our commitment to the men and women who served our Nation requires finding new and effective ways to connect veterans and their loved ones with the resources they earned and deserve. With the June 12 launch of the Make the Connection Facebook page, VA has been engaging a growing community of veterans and their supporters to find information and share experiences related to the life events, symptoms, and conditions affecting their lives and helping to highlight the fact that treatment works and is available.
The Make the Connection Facebook page features videos of veterans and their loved ones describing how they reached out for support, got treatment for mental health challenges, and worked through experiences such as transitioning from service, the death of family and friends, and retirement and aging. Men and women from every branch and era of service provide candid testimonials to help their fellow, former service members know they are not alone and support is available. The best messengers for encouraging veterans to get the care they need are credible and trusted individuals who understand veterans’ experiences—Veterans themselves. Using the power and reach of social media, Make the Connection can make sure these trusted messengers’ voices are heard by an ever-growing audience of Facebook fans.
Those who want to help can visit the MakeTheConnection website or our Facebook page. Familiarize yourself with the conditions and life events that affect veterans and their loved ones. ‘Like’ Make the Connection’s Facebook page and share videos and posts with those in your social networks. Mention this campaign and its vast resources to others and encourage them to experience MakeTheConnection.
It may not seem like much, but these simple actions could make a major difference in the lives of veterans and those who love them.
Sonja V. Batten, Ph.D. is the Deputy Chief Consultant for Specialty Mental Health at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.