A group of veterans from Grand Valley is using design thinking principles to help develop a prototype for a system to reduce veteran suicide by providing immediate local veteran-to-veteran support during a mental health crisis.
The system, known as Be My Unit, was created based on interviews with veterans who provided direct feedback on their experiences dealing with mental health issues and current solutions available to the veteran community.
Early work on development of the Be My Unit prototype was previewed during a luncheon for GVSU veterans hosted by the Peter Secchia Military and Veterans Resource Center on Thursday, Aug. 11.
“These are individuals with individual struggles and for the longest time we’ve tried to come at it through a sort of institutional umbrella, Band-Aid kind of perspective,” said Jill Hinton Wolfe, military and veterans resource manager at GVSU. “The thing I love about this is it’s just sort of one person reaching out to another who has similar shared experiences.”
While still in its conceptual phase, Be My Unit is envisioned as a tool that recognizes that current efforts that are costing billions of dollars aren’t doing enough to reduce veteran suicide. Over the past 20 years military veterans have been four times more likely to die by suicide than in combat. In 2019 more than 6,200 veterans took their own lives.
It’s that on-going battle that brought GVSU veterans like Sarah Anderson, ’21, to the table to participate in the design thinking process. She sees the work as part of President Philomena V. Mantella’s commitment to supporting veterans and their families as part of the campus community.
“There is a lack of support when you get out,” Anderson said. “It’s like going from a community in a unit in a warrior culture to an individual culture; and you have no one. So people go through mental health crises. So it’s how do we continue being that unit, being that support system when you’re going through that? That’s what this is attempting to do.”