During May, which is Mental Health Awareness month, one of the nation’s leading veteran nonprofit organizations, Travis Manion Foundation (TMF) has expanded their emphasis on the mental health and well-being of their members. Recognizing that many veterans, families of the fallen, and communities nationwide are feeling isolated and unsure of what the future holds, TMF has adapted their programs to operate virtually and is providing free support to those in need.
Many experts are anticipating that the mental and emotional fallout of the pandemic will be as damaging as the virus itself. According to a recent Forbes article, more than a third of American’s claim that the pandemic has seriously impacted their mental health. It’s no surprise that “stay at home” orders can lead to social isolation and loneliness, or that the experience of a lost loved one could throw any of us into a tailspin of grief and depression. Immediately following shelter-in-place and social distancing orders, TMF recognized this and issued an emergency survey of their member base to identify their greatest needs and challenges. Topping the list, veterans expressed concerns about a “lack of social interaction” and “mental health”--outweighing all other concerns around employment, child and elderly care, food security, and physical health. Two-thirds of survey respondents expressed that, because they do not have immediate critical needs like many others, they are looking for ways to support their community and would like TMF to help them engage in doing so.
With that, TMF has adapted many of their resources which would be done in-person, to now offer a plethora of online engagement opportunities.
Anyone familiar with the tight-knit military community, knows the value of the “buddy check”, an authentic, informal check-in with a fellow service member to ensure they are doing well physically, emotionally, and mentally. TMF has adapted this same practice for our members throughout the country, organizing regular buddy checks between members, hosting virtual socials and trivia hours, and mobilizing our top volunteers to check on fellow veterans within their own community. This effort, called “Spartan Says Hello” is a simple, low-resource, high impact way to ensure that our veteran community knows they are being taken care of, and allows an additional way for us to assess any immediate needs in a personalized way. For those who do have more critical needs, we are mobilizing to connect them with community resources and organizational partners that can meet those needs, including clinical support for more severe mental health concerns. TMF is anticipating to reach out to over 2,000 veterans with this initiative nationwide.
Every Wednesday in May TMF will host an interactive, fun, and inspiring physical challenge that concludes with a mindfulness activity. Well-Being Wednesday will be a time for people to check-in and learn about what they can do to intentionally take care of themselves. Additionally, viewers will be going through a few exercises to challenge the mind & body in an order to boost well-being. TMF Director of Growth and Partnership, Albie Masland, will host these 30 minute sessions every Wednesday at 12 pm ET.
TMF will host a conversation on well-being on Friday, May 22 at 12:00PM ET, and will focus on holistic well-being, what it means to thrive, the importance of social and emotional intelligence, and using resilience to overcome obstacles. Several special guests will offer a variety of valuable perspectives and takeaways.
TMF has substantially grown their catalog of online resources and are finding new and innovative ways to connect with veterans and families of the fallen who may feel isolated or lonely. TMF has created a free online learning portal, called the Spartan Development Center, which includes well-being resources, activities, and videos. Most resources are available without registering, but users can sign up for a free account to access online classes and other resources. New content is being added to their Spartan Development center weekly, and focuses on subjects like Positive Psychology, Well-being and Thriving, Emotional and Social Intelligence, Overcoming Obstacles and more.
Serve in Place
TMF Spartans have taken action already, by donating blood, helping neighbors shop for groceries, donating to food banks, and making masks or providing supplies for medical professionals--all while following proper safety protocol. TMF is mobilizing teams on the ground to provide critical services to the most vulnerable populations in need. Using digital survey tools, TMF is assessing the greatest needs of the community, and using a data-driven approach to meet those needs. TMF Spartans are serving throughout the community while still keeping members safe and respecting social distancing imperatives. From collecting and distributing food and medical supplies, to donating blood, to lifting spirits with letter-writing campaigns, TMF is showing they’re here to support those in need.
Ryan Manion, TMF’s president and Gold Star Sister of Marine 1st Lt. Travis Manion, highlights the importance of pivoting their resources to be available online during such an uncertain time, noting that “Since the pandemic hit the US, Veterans Crisis lines have seen a 12% surge in call volume. But while the veteran population may be vulnerable at this time, they are also a group we can look to for modeling resilience. The military community has taught me that the key to emotional and mental well-being is twofold: feeling connected to one another and providing a service to others that brings purpose and fulfillment. I can think of no group of people to learn from who are more deeply rooted in social connection or primed for service than our military.”
About Travis Manion Foundation
Travis Manion Foundation (TMF) unites communities to strengthen America's national character by empowering veterans and families of fallen heroes to develop and lead future generations. In 2007, 1st Lt. Travis Manion (USMC) was killed in Iraq while saving his wounded teammates. Today, Travis' legacy lives on in the words he spoke before leaving for his final deployment, "If Not Me, Then Who..." Guided by this mantra, veterans continue their service, develop strong relationships with their communities, and thrive in their post-military lives by serving as character role models to youth. As a result, communities prosper and the character of our nation’s heroes lives on in the next generation.