VA San Diego Healthcare System
Supporting Veterans through the Caring Cards Group
Veteran Ivan Moreno joined the Caring Cards Group at VA San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS) to socialize and to have a creative outlet that fit his schedule. Now his efforts, along with other Veterans who are part of the group, are helping prevent suicide among patients through simple and supportive acts.
The Caring Cards Group held by VASDHS’s Center of Recovery Education (CORE), began on Feb. 2018 to reach out to patients who are at high risk for suicidal idealization/behaviors. Veterans from the group send them a one-of-a-kind, handmade card with support a week after discharge.
CORE is a specialty mental health clinic that helps Veterans with serious mental illness, defined as having a current or past primary psychotic disorder, pursue and achieve recovery. Services include group and individual therapy, vocational rehabilitation, peer support, chaplain and nursing services, psychiatric medication management, psychoeducation, recovery coaching, and in some case management issues.
Having their own battles to fight, many of the Veterans in this program can empathize with the people they send cards to. Some of the comments written on the cards include “hope is in you” and “I want you to believe deep in your heart and soul that you are capable of achieving anything you put your mind to, that you will never lose; you will either win or learn just go forth and aim for the skies; love to you!”
The responses to the cards have been positive, with many Veterans commenting on how much they appreciated them. One anonymous person who received a card reported that “it made me feel like I’m not alone.”
While there’s no quantitative data on the program yet, the staff psychologist who began the program, Blaire Ehret, reports that anecdotally, Veterans participating in the group have shared that this helps them manage their own suicidal thoughts. When some of the Veterans brought the cards home to write, reading what they wrote reduced their own suicidal thoughts, it’s also prevented at least one Veteran from seeking hospitalization from suicidal thinking. Quantitative and qualitative data collection from Veteran recipients is currently underway.
“In the service, people are taught to look out for each other,” said Ehret. “This is a great way for Veterans to continue that support after they get out, in times where support is needed the most.”
In a way, the Caring Cards Program is a win-win for all involved.