Mental Health and Chaplaincy & Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation

Mental Health and Chaplaincy Office at the Veterans Health Administration

The Mental Health and Chaplaincy Office at the Veterans Health Administration will receive $729,037 over two years to implement the program Equipping Faith Communities and Clergy to Care for Veterans. The project aims to enhance faith communities’ capacities to provide a welcoming and supportive home for veterans. 


Nearly 3 million post 9-11 veterans have carried the American burden of extended conflicts and multiple deployments as an all-volunteer force. Many have faced separation from their families and returned home with invisible wounds of war, such as depression and PTSD. Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship have traditionally been epicenters of social, emotional, and spiritual lives for many Americans – including veterans and non-veterans. For many, these religious communities are crucial to orienting one’s life in meaningful, productive, and healthy ways. 


The project team will develop and pilot a sustainable community-based model to train and engage clergy and congregation members in faith communities to better understand and assist in addressing both the struggles and opportunities for veterans and their families with respect to belonging and meaningful reintegration into faith communities. The project will be building on a recently completed video series assembled by VA that features informative conversations with clergy, mental health professionals, and veterans for two target audiences: 1) laity in faith communities -to bring focus on issues at the intersection of readjusting to civilian life as a veteran and coping with mental health challenges; 2) clergy to focus on ways that they can collaborate with mental health professionals and better support those with mental health problems in their communities. 

Project Leader

Jason Nieuwsma,