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New Ohio State Program Teaches Social Workers How To Help Veterans


Military members face unique challenges when going off to war, and another set of challenges when returning home.

A new program at Ohio State University is trying to help by training professionals to deal with issues unique to returning service members.

"Having to separate that you've just been flying drones that are killing targets with, ‘Oh I'm home and I'm going to take my kids to soccer practice,’ that's a huge cognitive and emotional shift,” says Lisa Durham, assistant dean of Ohio State’s College of Social Work.

The college is offering a new 14-week course for an advanced certificate in serving veterans and their families.

Durham says a big obstacle for modern veterans can be multiple deployments in different theaters with short stops in-between, making it difficult for many to develop any sense of normalcy.

Some struggle most, she says, with the loss of their unit and fellow service members.

“Others come home and feel like they’ve lost time with their family,” Durham says. “They’ve gone on, things have happened that they weren’t a part of. And also, sometimes there’s a sense that they aren’t needed any more because their family did OK while they were deployed.”

The new program teaches social workers to try to get to the root of mental health issues, and also includes spiritual guidance. Durham says social workers enlist a pastor from the Department of Veterans Affairs to help council military members, some of whom were forced to kill other people overseas.

“To be able to help them put that in the context of their spirituality helps them move on," Durham says.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.