The network of public, private, and nonprofit organizations serves veterans, servicemembers and their families in the Greater National Capital Region and will have a presence at UMGC’s Mil/Vet Net networking fair on May 2
April is Stress Awareness Month and Rebecca Foss, the University of Maryland Global Campus’s director of social media, sat down with ServingTogether program manager Jason Marshall to discuss how military-affiliated students may be impacted by stress, and what resources are available to them. ServingTogether, a program of EveryMind, is a coordinated network of public, private, and nonprofit organizations serving veterans, service members and their families in the Greater National Capital Region.
Through the UMGC Office of Veterans Initiatives and Outreach, trained UMGC staff members can assist students with joining the ServingTogether network and having a case manager assigned to help with their needs.
Here is the conversation:
Rebecca Foss: Tell us about your work with the veteran population and with ServingTogether?
Jason Marshall: Sure. We have hundreds of partners throughout Maryland, DC, and Northern Virginia. When a veteran, active duty, or family member contacts us, we get some intake information from them. Based on what they're asking for and where they live, we provide them with resources. It could be anything from employment to housing to educational services to volunteerism; mental health agencies as well as physical health agencies. We've also been recently awarded a grant through the Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program adding greatly to what we can provide for veterans in our area.
Rebecca Foss: How is ServingTogether connected to EveryMind?
Jason Marshall: EveryMind is our parent company. They are focused on mental health in the Montgomery County area, with many schools. They have a homeless program, a program for the elderly, and many different programs for youth. They are also one of the 988 call centers throughout the State of Maryland. So, ServingTogether is the military arm of EveryMind and we work solely with veterans, active duty servicemembers and their families to be able to provide referral services.
Rebecca Foss: April is Stress Awareness Month, and you probably encounter many veterans who are under different types of stress. Is there something that you see more frequently with veterans, or do you have any advice or tips for reaching out in certain instances?
Jason Marshall: Oh, sure, as far as stress related issues, it runs the gamut. A lot of the folks that contact us are under a great amount of stress depending on the needs that they have. There's always the VA to reach out to, but there are hundreds of other agencies outside the VA that people are also eligible for, and a lot of them are free of charge. There are agencies that provide everything from equine therapy, canine therapy, retreats for married couples, or even fishing trips, kayaking trips, and hunting trips. These are all local, at their fingertips. All they have to do is reach out. They can contact us, and we'll find it for them or they—and this is all free—they can just Google and find these different agencies. There are hundreds of them.
Rebecca Foss: Can you tell us a little bit about the Peer Navigation program?
Jason Marshall: Sure. So, the peer navigators are our hands-on folks for when a veteran, active duty, or family member contacts us.
Rebecca Foss: That's who they're talking to? The peer navigators?
Jason Marshall: Yes. A lot of them are veterans or spouses of veterans. All of us are either veterans or spouses. I'm a Marine Corps veteran. We have some Air Force, Army. We’ve got a Navy spouse. So, everybody's associated with the military one way or another.
Rebecca Foss: Can you talk about your organization’s local administration of Mental Health First aid, and how that program has worked?
Jason Marshall: Sure. It's a wonderful class. I’m an instructor. Most of us that work for ServingTogether are instructors that teach whenever needed. So maybe once every 2 months or so, depending on the schedule. We can also give an agency or organization a class. For example, if UMGC wanted to have a few staff members take the class, we could arrange that and then open it up to the community as well. Each class is about 30 people. They are virtual or in-person and usually about 8 hours. The in-person class has more of a veteran component, focused on veterans. It's just a wonderful class. If you think of CPR First Aid, it's like that. But it's Mental Health First Aid. It's at the lay responder level.
Rebecca Foss: How can people benefit from taking the class?
Jason Marshall: It's something, I think, that everybody should take just to become aware of the signs and symptoms, and where to turn for help if you do run into these situations. We don't teach people to diagnose. We just teach them to be aware of signs and symptoms, and to be able to reach out if a person is in need. I can't say enough about it. A lot of times we offer it for free. So, if people do have questions about it, I'd be happy to answer.
Rebecca Foss: That's great. Is there anything else you want people to know as we're talking about stress and stress awareness?
Jason Marshall: There comes a time when everybody needs some help with this, and there are just so many different agencies out there that can help in so many ways. It doesn't have to be clinical. A lot of people think about getting mental health aid as a clinical situation, but it doesn't have to be. There are many opportunities out there for people to seek this aid, and we can do it very easily for them. All they have to do is contact us anytime during the week, 9 to 5, at (855) 738-7176. They'll speak to a Peer Navigator, who will walk them through the process and guide them to an appropriate partner to be able to provide those things they're looking for. Everybody needs a hand from time to time, and I would highly advise people to just take that step and go find that assistance, because it's out there.
Rebecca Foss: Thank you so much for answering these questions, and we will see ServingTogether at Mil/Vet Net 2023 on May 2. I'm sure people will have lots of questions for you as they stop by at the event.
Jason Marshall: We are pleased to be joining our partners at the UMGC Mil/Vet Net Fair. We’ll be there to provide hands on intake opportunities and support for service members, veterans and their families. We can track client progress, communicate with providers and ensure that veterans are getting what they need— all free of charge.
Mil/Vet Net 2023 will be held on Tuesday, May 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. The event is open to all faculty, staff, military-affiliated students and alumni, as well as veterans and their families in the Washington, D.C. area. Join ServingTogether along with over 40 other veteran service organizations, employers, and entrepreneurial services. Register to attend Mil/Vet Net 2023.