Veteran Ellsworth “Tony” Williams is providing an opportunity for veterans to help one another through his Veterans Counseling Veterans nonprofit, according to WTSP. Citing mental health issues as a serious concern for veterans, Williams is addressing the problem through his organization in a unique way with the counselors being veterans themselves.
Williams got the idea for Veterans Counseling Veterans after interning at the James A. Harry VA where he noticed that most of the counselors were not veterans. Williams recognized that veterans serving as counselors could help both the counselors and clients with having a shared experience between one another. The initiative also empowers veterans as they help others. Williams said, “we also got to be a part of the rescue and not just the ones receiving the services.”
With veterans serving as counselors, Williams said that it automatically builds trust as clients may feel more understood and comfortable speaking with a fellow veteran. Dr. Carlos Garcia, a Marine Corps veteran who works with Veterans Counseling Veterans shared that when counselors are people who may have had similar experiences to their clients, they come from a place of understanding and perspective and the clients know that. Garcia explained, “every day that I wake up and I realize that anywhere between 15-20 veterans will die today from suicide. It is an absolute inspiration to get out here and work harder to do everything that I can to make sure that we are changing the conversation around mental health.”
It is Williams’ vision to connect veterans and their families with veterans who are also mental health professionals, creating a supportive community for all. Williams’ organization is not only meeting the needs of veterans struggling with mental health, it is also providing an opportunity to veterans to help others.