Michigan Minds podcast: Purpose and mattering

March 11, 2024

Research effort shows veterans, senior citizens they have value, talents


Mattering. Purpose. They’re essential to happiness and healthiness, researchers have found.

For many people, they’re feelings that are hard to attain, especially for certain individuals who may be more prone to feeling purposeless; the elderly and veterans among them.

In the new Michigan Minds podcast, John Piette, professor at the U-M School of Public Health and director of the U-M Center for Managing Chronic Disease, discusses his research and community work focused on showing people they matter. He talks about his work with veterans, specifically his V-SPEAK project.

“V-SPEAK stands for Veteran Service Promoting English Acquisition and Knowledge. And like you said, we’re really trying to address head-on this problem of veterans … who feel that they just don’t matter. They don’t necessarily have purpose,” said Piette, who is also a Veterans Administration senior career scientist.

“And that feeling can lead to some really serious outcomes. Mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, sometimes substance abuse disorders. In extreme cases, we see those problems, feeling like you don’t matter, no one would miss you if you’re gone, can contribute to the high suicide rate. And veterans do have a very high suicide rate, so we’re really trying to be part of the solution to that problem as well.”

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