“Not being able to talk to someone about what’s going on in his or her life. Feeling helpless, hopeless, out of control and, especially, alone,” is what Michael Silverman says leads military veterans to commit suicide. So he started the San Diego chapter of Vet to Vet, a veteran’s peer support group that meets weekly in Balboa Park and Imperial Beach.
Silverman says he has experienced many of those same thoughts himself. He served as a Navy corpsman with the Marines for 23 years, including two tours in Vietnam.
After discovering the Vet to Vet program at the Loma Linda V.A. Hospital, he decided to bring it to San Diego.
For two hours each week, veterans have a safe and supportive environment. What’s said during the meetings is kept confidential and nothing is entered into V.A. or military medical records, Silverman said.
Vet to Vet is a “peer support” program, and while it is not therapy, it is definitely therapeutic, Silverman said.
“The group is built on substance, not fluff,” he said. “You won’t hear war stories, but you will see members choose from a list of tipics, such as PTSD, trust/mistrust, survivors guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, patriotism, isolation, poor judgment, depression, military bonding issues, intrusive memories and more.”
Since it started in San Diego five years ago, about 200 have attended, including veterans from all major service periods — from World War II to now.
“Most dramatic has been the number of female veterans attending the groups,” Silverman said.
The group meets from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Veterans’ Museum in Balboa Park and from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. on Thursdays at VFW Post 820 at 1268 Palm Ave. in Imperial Beach.
“The program is successful primarily because we truly listen and hear what a fellow veteran has to say,” Silverman said.
For more information, contact Silverman at (949) 842-8276 or Hugo Haynie at (619) 249-6355.