Last Tuesday, May 10th, the Illinois Joining Forces Women Veterans Working Group held their first annual conference at Camp Lincoln in Springfield. The day featured lectures, panel discussions, and more from subject matter experts as well as Women Veterans who shared their unique experiences serving.
Following a Military Culture 101 presentation from Meosha Thomas, Founder & CEO of One Savvy Veteran, the group heard about Post Traumatic Stress and Trauma in Women Veterans from Dr. John Mundt, Staff Psychologist at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. Dr. Mundt shared his valuable perspective from over 30 years providing psychological services to veterans. Specifically, 3 of 5 female veterans have experienced assault while serving, and many others have experienced harassment and threats of sexual assault. These experiences of Military Sexual Trauma are more likely to lead to PTSD than combat trauma, and are crucially important issues for service providers to understand.
Dr. Mundt also highlighted some challenges that female veterans face while seeking services at the VA – namely, having a hard time receiving treatment in a heavily male VA, and facing sexual harassment from other veterans while at the VA. These challenges were later emphasized in a panel discussion on the importance of peer support for women veterans. The panel discussion featured Erica Jeffries, Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs; Marine Nelson, SSVF Team Leader at Thresholds; Meosha Thomas, Founder & CEO of One Savvy Veteran; Megan Everett, Director of Veterans’ Programs at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation; and Lisa Goodale, Vice President of Peer Services at Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Panelists agreed that peer support programs establish a built-in trust and rapport with someone who has shared experiences, and that such programs are a valuable aspect of psychological treatment options.
Additional afternoon breakout sessions focused on a wide variety of topics with respect to female veterans, including integrative medicine, culturally competent medical care, employment services, and homelessness and housing. The day also included time for networking with service providers across Illinois.
Last week’s conference was made possible by many of IJF’s valuable partners and member organizations, including the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, Health & Disability Advocates, Thresholds, Jesse Brown VA, and the Illinois National Guard. Thank you to everyone who made the inaugural She Served conference a success!
Written by Caitlin Hodes, IJF Program Analyst