Buddy-to-Buddy, a citizen soldier peer support program to counteract stigma, PTSD, depression, and suicide


Address for correspondence: John F. Greden, M.D., University of Michigan Health System, 4250 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109. gredenj@umich.edu


Citizen soldiers (National Guard and Reserves) represent approximately 40% of the two million armed forces deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Twenty-five to forty percent of them develop PTSD, clinical depression, sleep disturbances, or suicidal thoughts. Upon returning home, many encounter additional stresses and hurdles to obtaining care: specifically, many civilian communities lack military medical/psychiatric facilities; financial, job, home, and relationship stresses have evolved or have been exacerbated during deployment; uncertainty has increased related to future deployment; there is loss of contact with military peers; and there is reluctance to recognize and acknowledge mental health needs that interfere with treatment entry and adherence. Approximately half of those needing help are not receiving it. To address this constellation of issues, a private–public partnership was formed under the auspices of the Welcome Back Veterans Initiative. In Michigan, the Army National Guard teamed with the University of Michigan and Michigan State University to develop innovative peer-to-peer programs for soldiers (Buddy-to-Buddy) and augmented programs for military families. Goals are to improve treatment entry, adherence, clinical outcomes, and to reduce suicides. This manuscript describes training approaches, preliminary results, and explores future national dissemination.