The Institute for Military and Veteran Family Wellness has officially opened its doors to offer research-based support for student veterans and veteran families.
The institute, which opened this fall, is a collaboration between the Steve Hicks School of Social Work and the Dell Medical School Department of Psychiatry, according to the website. Founded by director Elisa Borah, the institute publishes nationwide research and holds programs such as the Veteran Spouse Network, Veteran Couples Connect and Veteran Spouse Resiliency Group that offer support for post-traumatic stress disorder and relationship counseling.
Borah said she has worked for years to start some of these programs, and now, the new institute is bringing them to Austin. She said the institute’s research will help student veterans find purpose when transitioning to civilian life.
“We’re studying how best to help veterans and their families transition,” Borah said. “Whether that’s getting used to a new culture on campus or finding a new identity outside of the military.”
Amber Vasquez, math junior and veteran spouse, said the institute is unique because it prioritizes the veteran and their spouse. She said the peer support offered by the Veteran Spouse Resiliency Group has helped her heal by connecting her with others who share her experience.
“It creates a peer network that can understand what we’re going through without really having to explain a lot,” Vasquez said. “Some of the issues that we deal with, especially if you have a wounded veteran in your life, which is my case, can be heavy issues that talking to someone who isn’t connected to the military wouldn’t quite understand.”
Nikki Hammond, communication and leadership freshman, said her father’s deployment during high school took a toll on her entire family, especially her mother.
“You’re kind of on your own, especially when it comes to spouses,” Hammond said. “This organization could be very helpful in managing finances, relationships and all of the exterior stuff (that) are definitely hard to manage when one person has to carry it all.”
Borah said there are nonprofit groups that support veterans, but, unlike the institute, these groups do not always conduct research to test their programs.
“Research is needed to know for certain that the intervention is working,” Borah said. “A lot of times, people create something because they want to help veterans, but they don’t always know if the thing they’ve created is really helping.”
Editor's Note: This article has been updated since it was originally published to clarify a statement about the research other groups conduct.