Developed to meet the needs and challenges of our service members, veterans, and their families, M-SPAN (Military Support Programs and Networks) is a comprehensive, collaborative initiative dedicated to military mental health. M-SPAN programs have been developed by faculty and staff from the University of Michigan Depression Center and Department of Psychiatry in collaboration with the Michigan Army National Guard and Michigan State University. M-SPAN incorporates innovative approaches to outreach, overcoming stigma, research and evaluation, and the design and delivery of support programs for service members and military families.
M-SPAN initiatives include:
Programs for service members:
- The Buddy-to-Buddy volunteer veteran program, designed to address the many challenges citizen soldiers and Reservists may encounter throughout the deployment cycle. Recently returned veterans are partnered with volunteer veterans who help answer questions and offer resources to facilitate successful reintegration into civilian life.
- Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE) is a peer support program that connects student veterans on campus with peer advisors at their schools who can provide support and link them with resources to facilitate a smooth transition from the military to college, or help them navigate other challenges they are facing.
Programs for military families:
- STRoNG Families
This parenting group program is offered for military service members, their spouses or partners, and their children aged 0-8 years old. STRoNG Families provides a 10-week parent and child group experience designed to support and enhance the resilience of military families by creating opportunities for families to come together to learn, support one another, and grow in their ability to navigate the unique challenges they face.
- Military Family Support Forums
A free monthly program for family members of OEF/OIF service members or veterans. Forums include presentations on a topic of interest followed by an opportunity to connect with other families through a facilitated discussion. The Forum includes a separate program for children.
- HomeFront Strong
An 8-week resiliency group for military spouses or partners experiencing distress associated with deployment open to individuals at any point in the deployment cycle. HomeFront Strong focuses on building social support and positive relationships, learning new approaches to self-care, connecting to resources, and promoting resiliency and positive coping.
- Deployment Cycle Support
This initiative offers interactive workshops and educational content on the unique challenges that arise throughout the deployment cycle for service members and their supporters around family and couple relationships, communication, and parenting.
- All of the intervention programs (Buddy-to-Buddy, Strong Families, HomeFront Strong) are being evaluated for effectiveness and to measure the impact of these services on the quality of life for service members and families.
- Surveys of National Guard soldiers and family members are assessing well-being, deployment experiences, mental health symptoms, substance use, physical and mental health related functioning, parenting and work functioning, treatment use, and other issues.
- M-SPAN held an inaugural summit on Michigan military family research in November 2011. The conference results are being used to frame a statewide military family research agenda and strengthen networks between researchers working in this growing field.