Tomah VA Medical Center facilitates peer support groups for veterans

Among Vietnam veterans alone, it is estimated that 30% have had PTSD in their lifetimes.

TOMAH (WKBT) — The Tomah VA Medical Center offers a number of peer support groups for veterans in need of mental health assistance and other resources.

According to Sierra Phillips, a local recovery coordinator at the Department of Veterans Affairs, when veterans have success in peer support services it often translates to more success in psychotherapy.

Phillips said one of the local peer support groups is for coping with PTSD, while others are for veterans experiencing other mental health issues. Some of the groups are also geared towards veterans experiencing homelessness and other problems.

Phillips added that peer support staffers at the VA also help connect veterans with different areas of assistance.

“Our peer support staff are amazing systems navigators and know not just about internal VA resources and services but also community support,” she said.

For a veteran to access peer support services they can inform any treatment provider at the VA or contact the Tomah VA Medical Center at 608-372-3971.

Vietnam Veteran Alice Holstein served as a peer support specialist at the VA from 2008 to 2017. She took the job after she overcame her struggle with bipolar mood disorder, which has also been called manic depression.

“Having to suffer scrapes away what isn’t important in life and gets you to the core of who you are,” she said.

Holstein recently wrote a book titled A Tough Grace: Mental Illness as a Spiritual Path which includes 50 different things that she did to get well.

She added that her journey toward helping others came to be after doctors said her issue couldn’t be fixed.

“I got mad and said I was going to be as well as I could be,” she said. “And that intention set me on a path,” she added.

On August 10, President Biden signed the PACT Act into law, which expanded healthcare and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances.

If any veteran is dealing with suicidal thoughts, the veterans crisis line can be reached by dialing 9-8-8 and then pressing 1.