Date Presented 04/02/2022

The transition from military to civilian life often results in a change in role, routines, and identity. This occupational shift can lead to disturbances in one’s overall mental health. This systematic review explored the impact of peer support on community reengagement for veterans with mental health conditions. Connecting with those who have been ‘in their boots’ has been shown to improve positive behaviors and relationships for veterans.

Primary Author and Speaker: Colleen Sunderlin

Additional Authors and Speakers: Cassidy Atkinson-Smith, Paige Plumley, Matthew Foley

Contributing Authors: Katelyn Kennedy, Katlyn Sehring, Tyler Blair

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Veterans often face difficulties transitioning back to civilian life resulting in shifts in roles, routines and identity. Peer support groups have been utilized to help ease the transition into civilian life and rebuild relationships. Peer support groups give veterans the opportunity to gather with one another to discuss shared issues and experiences and provide support to one another.

OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this systematic review was to examine the impact of peer support on military veterans with mental health conditions as they transition to civilian life.

METHOD: Databases used in the search included CINAHL, Medline, Google Scholar, and psycINFO. Key search terms included: veteran/military/soldiers, transition to civilian life, peer support/social support.

RESULTS: Following data extraction and critical examination of the evidence for quality and risk of bias, the authors found that peer support interventions gave veterans a newfound sense of belonging, identity, and routine.

CONCLUSION: Studies suggest that socialization or engaging in activities with peers is helpful in developing relationships and improving positive behaviors for veterans. Findings suggest that peer support groups provide benefits for veterans transitioning home from the military in regards to roles, routines, and identity. Occupational therapists can facilitate community re-engagement of veterans, through other veterans, utilizing peer support as a meaningful activity to promote overall well-being and quality of life.


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