For Suicide Prevention Month, Veteran Advocates Looking for (More Than) a Few Great Listeners

If you can give 15 minutes to help save a life, ListenCorps wants you to lend an ear

ListenCorps is Looking for (more than ) a Few Great Listeners

"Great listeners must be part of America's commitment to disrupting suicide," veteran advocates insist. Seth Eisenberg, CEO of Purpose Built Families Foundation and a founder of the nationally accredited Operation Sacred Trust program for ending veteran homelessness says, "Helping people in despair is more about listening than talking."

"Thoughts and feelings scrambled up in a mess of pent-up anger, sadness and fear aren't a request or invitation for advice or counsel," he says. "They're desperate cries to be heard."

Social Worker Julie Macias agrees. As Operation Sacred Trust's Deputy Program Director, she has years of experience working with veterans in the midst of crisis.

An important part of weekly orientations delivered by the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program in Broward and Miami-Dade counties includes giving homeless and at-risk veterans a chance to express feelings of anger, fear and sadness, she explains.

"Joy, happiness, and relief are buried under all those upsetting feelings that people bottle up for days, weeks, even decades," Macias says. "When you train people to be great listeners and provide a safe structure for those who have experienced trauma to express their range of emotions, they can quickly get to a better place," she says.

That better place typically includes thinking more clearly, envisioning a happy, successful future, and thinking through strategies to bring that future to life, Eisenberg says, citing the federally funded program's success ending and preventing homelessness for thousands of South Florida veterans.

"The process also helps create and strengthen connections with friends, family and social supports," he adds.

Eisenberg began training spouses of combat veterans to be great listeners and warriors to express their feelings during a Valentine's Weekend retreat for the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia in 2009. The experience with the Iraq and Afghanistan combat soldiers in Augusta led to a VA Best Practice Award.

Eisenberg went on to deliver classes to boost emotional literacy to active-duty military couples preparing for deployment, provide accreditation training for hundreds of VA and DoD clergy and behavioral health professionals serving military and veteran families throughout the world, and offer public classes to thousands more.

"Active-duty military and veterans need friends and family who really know how to listen," Eisenberg insists. "It can be a matter of life and death."

For Suicide Prevention Month, Eisenberg, Macias and their Purpose Built Families Foundation colleagues are encouraging people who care about disrupting suicide for America's warriors and veterans to learn what it takes to be great listeners and lend an ear to an initiative they're calling, "ListenCorps."

"Fifteen minutes of intense listening ... listening without judging, blaming, criticizing, questioning, trying to fix, comparing to what you, your aunt, uncle or anyone else went through, or offering advice is a skill people can and should learn," he urges.

For people who live or work with veterans, those skills can be "as valuable and urgent as CPR or knowing how to help someone who is choking," he says.

"We're calling on people to lend an ear," Macias adds. "With a few hours of training and the best intentions, you can become a life-saver."

To learn more or participate in ListenCorps training, email or visit

Source: Purpose Built Families Foundation


Categories: Military

Tags: #bethere, communication skills, military families, suicide, suicide prevention month, training

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About Purpose Built Families Foundation

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Purpose Built Families Foundation is a nationally accredited nonprofit delivering preventative and reparative services to overcome foundational barriers to the quest for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Seth Eisenberg
CEO, Purpose Built Families Foundation
Purpose Built Families Foundation
9050 Pines Blvd (Suite 305)
Pembroke Pines, FL 33024
United States